Israel’s Health Ministry is warning citizens to get their flu shots if they have not already done so. An outbreak of the H1N1 virus (swine flu) has struck hard in Israel, and the flu season has barely begun, according to Dr. Yuval Rabinovich, medical director of the Leumit HMO clinic in Arad.
“The worst month in flu season is typically in February,” Rabinovich told JewishPress.com in an interview on Thursday. “The second worst in January, but we have seen cases as late as April. We have only now just begun the season. This year is slightly worse than the past two years, but it is not really different from the average. Flu can be deadly.”
The first symptom of the illness is usually severe difficulty breathing. This is combined with a fever, intense headache, muscle aches, weakness and fatigue. Officials warn Israelis to get to immediately contact a doctor if any of these symptoms appear. The virus has already had deadly consequences in the Jewish State.
One woman died Wednesday night after fighting for her life for more than a month at Rabin Medical Center in Petach Tikva.
Nine others have been hospitalized, including three who were pregnant. One woman, age 25, required a Caesarean section due to the severity of her illness. Her baby is in the neonatal ICU in stable condition. The condition of the other two pregnant women has improved.
“Especially for women who are pregnant, and for babies, the issue of getting a flu shot is of paramount importance,” Rabinovich stressed, “for two reasons. First, the flu can cause a pregnant woman to have a miscarriage. Second, there is no way to protect a very young baby from the flu except by innoculating those around her. A baby can only receive a flu shot at the age of six months, and then the baby must receive a second vaccination a month later.”
In any case, flu shots are not effective until two weeks after the injection, Rabinovich added.
Four people currently ill with the virus are hospitalized at Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva, including a woman age 57 in serious condition, who was placed on a respirator in the ICU. Two women who are ill with the virus are in Jerusalem hospitals; both are in serious condition and have required placement on respirators.
None received a flu shot this year. All were quarantined after coming down with the illness.Hana Levi Julian