Swine flu virus under the microscope
Swine flu virus under the microscope Israel News Photo: (file)

The first case of swine flu to be diagnosed in the Palestinian Authority has struck a four-year-old child living in Bethlehem.

The little girl recently returned with her family from a visit to the United States, according to PA health ministry official Asad Ramlawi.

It is the first known confirmed laboratory-confirmed case of the H1N1 virus to  occur among PA Arabs in Judea, Samaria or Gaza, reported Reuters. PA Health Ministry officials met last month with senior officials from Israel's Health Ministry, Jordan and Egypt in order to coordinate their response to the swine flu threat in the region.

Senior Israeli Govt Officials Strategize on Swine Flu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Wednesday with senior government officials to assess the nation's status vis a vis the threat of a swine flu epidemic in Israel.

Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen, Prime Minister's Office Director-General Eyal Gabai, Health Ministry Director-General Avi Yisraeli and other senior officials were all present at the meeting.

Health Ministry representatives briefed participants on the development of swine flu in the country and around the world, and on the methods for dealing with it. The various ministry representatives emphasized the concerns regarding additional flu strains that are liable to break out around the world and discussed proposed methods for dealing with the most virulent strains.

Netanyahu approved the option of immediately ordering vaccines should a virulent strain break out in the future, "in order to provide a rapid medical response in real time," according to a statement released by the Prime Minister's Office.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear the State of Israel must look towards the future and prepare itself for all possible scenarios just as many other countries are doing," the statement said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) told its member nations on Thursday that it is declaring a swine flu pandemic -- the first global flu epidemic in 41 years. In a statement sent to member countries, the WHO said it decided to raise the pandemic alert level from phase 5 to 6, meaning that a global outbreak of swine flu has begun.