Israeli doctors downplay threat of 'swine flu'

Monday, August 17, 2009 |  Israel Today Staff

Even as two more Israelis succumbed to complications arising from so-called "swine flu" last Wednesday, a growing number of Israeli doctors were urging the public not to overreact to the pandemic.

In various media interviews, leading Israeli doctors are trying to calm fears by pointing out that the H1N1 flu strain, popularized as "swine flu," is actually a fairly mild flu strain. Of the seven Israelis who have died from complications related to H1N1, five were already suffering from chronic illnesses. In other words, they would have died even if they had contracted "regular" flu.

In fact, many of the doctors have explained that hundreds of Israelis die each year from "regular" flu, but the public is generally unaware of the numbers since the deaths are usually not reported in the mass media.

The symptoms and severity of H1N1 are basically the same as a common flu, the only differences being that swine flu can often be accompanied by a higher fever and is more likely to effect people under 30, whereas the standard flu strain is more often contracted by people over 50.

The reason for the age discrepancies is believed to be related to the fact that people under 30 have been exposed to fewer flu strains in their lives, and are therefore less likely to have antibodies capable of repelling H1N1. However, their younger age makes surviving the flu far more plausible than those of the older generations who contract "regular" flu.

Despite these assurances, much of the general public continues to panic as the media headlines every swine flu death, and the government is expected to react by spending hundreds of millions of shekels it doesn't have on vaccinations for every citizen.

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