Texas toddler dies from swine flu

Marks first US death following outbreak; in Israel, 2 confirmed to have virus, 3 suspected cases emerge.

swine flu Netanya 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
swine flu Netanya 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Health officials confirmed the first death from swine flu in the US Wednesday, saying a 23-month-old child in Texas had succumbed to the virus. The flu death, the first in the current outbreak reported outside Mexico, was confirmed by Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, a day after the first two Israeli swine flu cases were confirmed in Kfar Saba and Netanya respectively, another suspected case emerged in the country Wednesday morning after a 34-year-old man was admitted to Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital following his return from Mexico. The man was suffering from a high temperature and other flu-like symptoms, but was said to be in good condition. Kfar Saba's Meir Hospital said late Tuesday afternoon that the second person who had contracted the virus was a 47-year-old man who returned to Israel from Mexico two days ago and checked himself in when he felt ill. It said the Health Ministry tested the man and confirmed he had the strain of the virus present in Mexico that has set off a worldwide health scare. The hospital said the man was suffering from fever and flu-like conditions, but was expected to make a full recovery. He is being kept in isolation while he is being treated. A nine-year-old boy who was on the man's flight was hospitalized at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center's Dana Children's Hospital on Tuesday night amid concern that he had contracted the virus. Earlier Tuesday, health officials confirmed the country's first case of swine flu in the country. Health Ministry spokeswoman Einav Shimron said that 26-year-old Tomer Vajim from Netanya, who recently returned from Mexico and has been in quarantine for several days at the city's Laniado Hospital, tested positive for the virus. Dr. Avinoam Skolnik, Laniado's medical director, said Vajim had recovered and was in "excellent condition," adding that he would remain hospitalized until the Health Ministry approves his release. In an interview with Channel 1 TV, Vajim said he felt fine. "I was really scared when they told me I had contracted this kind of flu and that I am the first one," he said. "My family is stressed out. But I feel okay." Vajim's five-year-old niece was also being held in isolation at the hospital amid concern that she, too, had contracted the virus. The hospital said the girl was in the children's ward and that she was in good condition. She was admitted after suffering from a high temperature, sore throat and other flu-like symptoms. In addition, a 42-year-old man who recently returned from Mexico was admitted Tuesday to Jerusalem's Hadassa Ein Kerem Hospital, where he was being held in isolation. The Health Ministry released a list of preventive measures to the public, including frequent hand-washing - particularly after coughing or sneezing - and a recommendation to anyone suspected of having contracted the virus and traveling for treatment not to take public transport. The ministry urged those who recently returned from Mexico and felt ill to contact a doctor, while a travel advisory told Israelis to avoid nonessential travel to Mexico. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held an emergency meeting on the swine flu epidemic on Tuesday night. During the meeting, Israel's preparedness for dealing with the virus was discussed, while Netanyahu rejected the proposal to transfer full responsibly for the issue to the Defense Ministry, saying that for now, it would be in the hands of the Health Ministry. Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai - who is responsible for emergency preparedness, Health Ministry Director-General Avi Yisraeli and various other officials, attended the discussion. Health Ministry personnel gave an updated briefing regarding preparations and various future scenarios and forecasts. They said outside Mexico, it appeared that the virus was currently relatively mild. At the meeting, it was decided that continued preparations would be made in accordance with the existing procedures in Israel and World Health Organization guidelines. It was also agreed that existing stocks of medicines in Israel would be examined and that the relevant officials would continually assess the situation and update Netanyahu on a daily basis. Meanwhile, a regional meeting to discuss ways of dealing with the outbreak was expected to be held after Wednesday's Independence Day, and was set to be attended by representatives from Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. There have been no cases of swine flu reported in the Palestinian territories. Regardless, Fathi Abu Moughli, the Palestinian minister of health, said Palestinian technical teams would meet in the coming days with their Israeli counterparts. "We are breathing the same air, drinking the same water and Israel controls the borders of the Palestinian territories so it is normal that we meet and coordinate our steps in facing any hazard of a swine flu," he said. "Anytime we face similar threats we will meet and coordinate and make joint efforts." Litzman attempted to allay Israeli fears over the virus. "We have enough medicine. I don't expect this to become a plague," he told Army Radio on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Mexico launched an official complaint to Israel on Tuesday regarding Litzman's suggestion to call swine flu "Mexican flu" in deference to Muslim and Jewish sensitivities over pork. Mexico's Ambassador to Israel Frederico Salas complained to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem that the name Mexican flu was bothersome and worrying. The Foreign Ministry stressed that Israel had no intention of changing the name of the virus and emphasized the friendly ties between Israel and Mexico. During a press conference Monday, Litzman said the reference to pigs was offensive to both religions and "we should call this Mexican flu and not swine flu." 159 people have died in Mexico in the outbreak of the virus and dozens of other cases have been confirmed worldwide.