Study: Syrian Kids Bringing ‘Superbugs’ Into Israeli Hospitals

This frame grab from video provided by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media shows smoke rising during fighting between insurgents and Syrian government troops in an eastern neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, March. 22. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

A study by Israeli medical officials and the IDF medical division indicates that the vast majority of Syrian children who are being treated in Israeli hospitals carry “superbugs,” virulent strains of bacteria, germs and viruses that are unknown to Israeli children – and are in many cases resistant to antibiotics. The only way they can be treated, the study says, is to isolate them in their own rooms at hospitals, and completely fumigate the room when they vacate it.

The startling numbers are based on a study of dozens of Syrian children who were treated in Israeli hospitals between June 2013 and November 2014. The study was conducted by staff at the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, together with the IDF medical division and the Faculty of Medicine of Tzfas, affiliated with Bar Ilan and other universities. Out of 47 children examined, 37 – nearly 80 percent – were deemed too dangerous medically to mix with the general hospital population, as the germs they carried proved resistant to all antibiotics available.

Israel as a matter of policy has been accepting Syrian children into its hospitals since the beginning of that country’s civil war six years ago. According to many reports in Israeli media, desperate parents bring their children to the border fence on the Golan Heights, where IDF soldiers take custody of them and bring them to Israeli hospitals. Most of these are hospitalized in hospitals in northern Israel, with Nahariya bearing the brunt of the hospitalizations.

Based on experience and other studies, hospitals have long isolated the Syrian children, with the NRG news sites quoting medical officials on how the use of resources – especially with the limited number of rooms in hospitals – is impinging on the care they can provide Israelis. According to the report, thousands of Syrians have been treated in Israeli hospitals over the past six years.

The study said that the children are often suffering from serious diseases, including polio and many infectious conditions. Unsupervised and careless use of antibiotics has been a major contributor to developing generations of germs that have built up resistance to antibiotics.

NRG cited a study from three years ago that stated that Syrian refugees had imported into Israel diseases that had not been seen here previously – CRE, Carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, a class of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and that researchers have called “superbugs,” which can “power” common bacteria and make them impossible to treat. At the time, then-Tzfas Mayor Ilan Shochat demanded that the government stop sending Syrian refugees to the city’s Ziv Hospital, instead sending them to hospitals in the center of the country, which he said were better equipped to deal with the matter. Because of the nature of the diseases the refugees brought in, four-bed hospital rooms had to be dedicated strictly to them – denying Israelis the opportunity for treatment, and making crowded hospital conditions worse.

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