'Some 700 swine flu deaths this winter'

Health Ministry director-general makes bleak prediction at Knesset committee meeting.

swine flu test kit 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi)
swine flu test kit 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi)
There could be some 700 deaths in the expected swine flu outbreak in Israel this winter, Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Avi Yisraeli said during a Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee meeting on Monday, adding that most of the deaths would be among youngsters. During the meeting on the purchase of swine flu vaccines, Yisraeli said it appeared that about a quarter of Israel's population would contract the virus. He added that there was a shortage of some 4,500 hospital beds needed to reasonably cope with the outbreak. Also at the meeting, Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman said that despite Yisraeli's assessment and the two recent swine flu deaths, he would not allocate health basket funds to purchase the future swine flu vaccines. Last week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, following a meeting with Litzman, announced that Israel would be purchasing enough swine flu vaccinations to provide for every citizen in the country. Some officials have criticized the decision to acquire the vaccine, saying that the medicine was not yet proven to be effective, and it was unclear whether it would even arrive by winter, the height of flu season. Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich backed Litzman's position at the committee meeting, saying that buying the vaccine at other medicines' expense would risk lives. Kadima MK Rachel Adato said that is wasn't clear why is was necessary to purchase the vaccination for the entire population and recommended that Israel, like the US, buy the vaccine only for the number of people at risk. Ran Balicer, and adviser for the Health Ministry, told Army Radio on Monday that "there is no reason to change the measures being taken." "This case was tragic and regretful, but we must remember that things are much worse in every regular flu season," said Balicer. "Every year, we see hospital corridors and intensive care units full, and people die from it, too." Meanwhile, the family of 24-year-old Jihan Moussa from Ma'alot Tarshiha, whose death from swine flu was announced on Sunday night, said that her life could have been saved. Moussa's cousin told Army Radio on Monday morning that her doctor had initially convinced the family that there was no need to hospitalize her, but when they eventually arrived at Nahariya's Western Galilee Hospital on Friday, they were told that they had got there too late. "The family doctor managed to convince us that there was nothing to worry about and that there was no need to send Jihan for medical treatment, but when we arrived at the hospital, they told us that we had come too late," said Mundar Moussa. "The doctor didn't diagnose the virus. He said it was regular flu, gave her antibiotics and released her," he said. "On Thursday, after the doctor had checked her, her condition deteriorated, but he still didn't think it was necessary to send her to hospital. Her father insisted, but then the hospital said that we'd arrived too late." Moussa was suffering multiple health problems, including fever and respiratory difficulties. The hospital said she was also overweight, a fact that intensified the symptoms of the virus. Until now, over 1,700 people have been diagnosed with swine flu in Israel, and 20 of them have been listed in serious condition. Shimon Azran, 35, an obese smoker, died at Yoseftal Hospital in Eilat over the weekend.