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עמוד בית
Thu, 25.07.24

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February 2008
T. Brosh-Nissimov, O. Havkin, N. Davidovitch L. Poles and C. Shapira

The lethal poisoning of Alexander Litvinenco with the radioactive element polonium-210, and the risk that many civilians (including Israeli citizens) who were in the same location in London at the same time were exposed to radiation, was an unprecedented event in the western world. This was only the second known death due to 210Po[1], a natural alpha radiation-emitting element. A task team was created to handle the event. The team comprised representatives from the Ministry of Health's advisory committee for radiological events (which includes the Israel Defense Force, the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission and the Ministry of Environmental Protection), the Public Health Services Central District, and a public relations expert. Forty-seven people were located and underwent an epidemiological inquiry, and urine samples for detection of 210Po were sent abroad to a specialized laboratory. The radiotoxicological results were analyzed and evaluated by the expert team and follow-up recommendations were made. This unfamiliar and potentially stressful scenario was handled successfully by a multi-organizational multidisciplinary task team. The joint work of the task team was a real-life "exercise" simulating a radiological event in Israel. This team has recommended further evaluation of various vital missions in the event of any possible future radiological event, with special emphasis on a proactive communication approach to the media and the public.

[1] 210Po = polonium-210

January 2007
Z. Kaufman, W-K. Wong, T. Peled-Leviatan, E. Cohen, C. Lavy, G. Aharonowitz, R. Dichtiar, M. Bromberg, O. Havkin, E. Kokia and M.S. Green

Background: Syndromic surveillance systems have been developed for early detection of bioterrorist attacks, but few validation studies exist for these systems and their efficacy has been questioned.

Objectives: To assess the capabilities of a syndromic surveillance system based on community clinics in conjunction with the WSARE[1] algorithm in identifying early signals of a localized unusual influenza outbreak.

Methods: This retrospective study used data on a documented influenza B outbreak in an elementary school in central Israel. The WSARE algorithm for anomalous pattern detection was applied to individual records of daily patient visits to clinics of one of the four health management organizations in the country.

Results: Two successive significant anomalies were detected in the HMO’s[2] data set that could signal the influenza outbreak. If data were available for analysis in real time, the first anomaly could be detected on day 3 of the outbreak, 1 day after the school principal reported the outbreak to the public health authorities.

Conclusions: Early detection is difficult in this type of fast-developing institutionalized outbreak. However, the information derived from WSARE could help define the outbreak in terms of time, place and the population at risk.

[1] WSARE = What’s Strange About Recent Events

[2] HMO = health management organization

September 2006
D. Nitzan Kaluski, E. Barak, Z. Kaufman, L. Valinsky, E. Marva, Z. Korenman, Z. Gorodnitzki, R. Yishai, D. Koltai, A. Leventhal, S. Levine, O. Havkin and M.S. Green

Contamination of food with streptococci could present with unusual outbreaks that may be difficult to recognize in the early stages. This is demonstrated in a large food-borne outbreak of streptococcal pharyngitis that occurred in 2003 in a factory in Israel. The outbreak was reported to the public health services on July 2 and an epidemiologic investigation was initiated. Cases and controls were interviewed and throat swabs taken. An estimated 212 cases occurred within the first 4 days, the peak occurring on the second day. There was a wave of secondary cases during an additional 11 days. The early signs were of a respiratory illness including sore throat, weakness and fever, with high absenteeism rates suggesting a respiratory illness. As part of a case-control study, cases and controls were interviewed and throat swabs taken. Illness was significantly associated with consumption of egg-mayonnaise salad (odds ratio 4.2, 95% confidence interval 1.4–12.6), suggesting an incubation period of 12–96 hours. The initial respiratory signs of food-borne streptococcal pharyngitis outbreaks could delay the identification of the vehicle of transmission. This could be particularly problematic in the event of deliberate contamination.

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