'We'll soon know if Israel in swine flu danger'

Health Ministry officials urge Israelis: Avoid travel to Mexico.

The uncertainty about whether the swine flu outbreak abroad poses a risk to Israelis should be over within days, not weeks, Dr. Itamar Grotto, the Health Ministry's deputy director-general in charge of public health services, said on Monday. Grotto, who has been working around the clock since the eruption of a new virus strain was reported from Mexico on Saturday, told The Jerusalem Post he was "not worried, but alert, as there is something new out there, a strain that that [had] not [previously] infected humans." However, he said the country was well prepared. On Monday morning, the medical director of Netanya's Laniado Hospital, Dr. Avinoam Shkolnik, said the condition of 26-year-old Vajim, who was hospitalized on Sunday with high fever after returning from a trip to Mexico, had improved overnight and that the chances that he had contracted the virus were "slim." However, on Tuesday it was confirmed Vajim has the disease. In the meantime, a 49-year-old man who returned from Mexico two days ago was admitted to Kfar Saba's Meir Medical Center after suffering from a high temperature and other flu-like symptoms. He was put into isolation and is being monitored until his test results are ready in a few days. To be on the safe side, Grotto advised people who "do not have to go to Mexico" not to travel there. Grotto said he was trying to obtain addition supplies of Tamiflu, the drug that prevents complications of swine flu. While the official international standard is to have enough doses to cover a quarter of the population, Israel has enough for 17 percent of its people. Many countries did not reach the 25% standard, he said. "Our supplies so far have come from Roche Pharmaceuticals in Switzerland. There is a possibility of purchasing more in India, but before we buy the drug there, we want to make sure that it is safe," he said. Tamiflu considerably reduces the need for hospitalization and the risk of death for swine flu victims who take it in time. Scientists abroad have begun working to produce a vaccine against the new strain, but this will take time, said the senior ministry official. Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman stressed that there were still no recommendations against traveling abroad, but added, "Whoever doesn't have anything to look for in Mexico should remember that Israel is a great place. What's lacking here? "We haven't said flying is forbidden, but the wise man's eyes are in his head," he continued, quoting Ecclesiastes. "There is still no indication that [it] has reached here, but as long as there are flights between the US and Israel, we need to closely monitor the situation. The Health Ministry has issued clear instructions to the public."