Israel's Health Ministry has reported a dramatic drop in the number of people contracting flu, Israel Hayom reported.
Data from the Israel Center for Disease Control (ICDC) shows that the severity of the flu epidemic has dropped for the first time in two months, and is now considered below "moderate."
The number of people who were found to have contracted influenza last week was lower than the average for the same period in 2018 and 2019, as well as the average for the past decade. While during peak season, approximately 18 people turned up with flu for every 10,000 visiting a health clinic, during the past week there were only seven people per 10,000 who had flu-like symptoms.
Since October 2019, a full 46 Israelis have died from complications of flu, including six during the past week. Another 353 patients have been hospitalized in serious condition, requiring breathing assistance or treatment in the intensive care unit, including 19 during the past week. The seriously ill patients include 12 pregnant women and 84 children. Hospitals' internal medicine wards are at 110% capacity, while the pediatric wards are at 102% capacity, Israel Hayom noted.
However, there has been no significant change in the number of emergency room visits for pneumonia.
Though initially the number of Israelis who received the flu vaccination was low, the percentage has since risen to 25% of the population, up from 19% last year. Among senior citizens, the percentage of vaccinated individuals has risen to 60%, higher than last year's 58%, and among babies and children, to 24%, up from last year's 17%.
Professor Hagai Levine, Chairman of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians at the Israel Medical Association, told Israel Hayom: "Thankfully, there has been a significant drop in the flu morbidity in Israel, even though the virus is still circulating. In Australia, we saw changes in patterns, which have been attributed to climate change and which we need to take into account. Even though it is unlikely, there is a chance that the flu will peak again this winter. On the other hand, in Europe and North America, the number of flu cases is still rising."
"It is good that the public answered the call and came to get vaccinated."
He added: "The drop in the number of flu cases in Israel will make it easier to prepare for a coronavirus outbreak. We cannot distinguish coronavirus from flu and other viruses by looking at the symptoms, so a drop in the number of flu cases will make it easier to diagnose and lessen the overload on public health services, community clinics, and hospitals. Investing in monitoring respiratory infections is more critical than ever."