Israel Reports Cases Of 'Mexican' Flu
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is Lourdes Garcia Navarro in Jerusalem. Israels two confirmed cases are men who had both recently traveled from Mexico. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened an emergency meeting last night to prepare for a possible health crisis here. It was announced that in the event more cases are discovered, Israels defense ministry will be put in charge of the issue.
Today is Independence Day in Israel and large crowds are expected to gather across the country for celebrations. So far, Israels health ministry is only telling people to maintain basic hygiene and not asking them to avoid being in public spaces.
Meanwhile, though, controversy has erupted here over the very name of the flu. Because eating pork or swine is banned under Jewish law, the far-right deputy health minister here, Yaacov Litzman, said he will now call the disease the Mexican Flu to avoid offending devout Jews.
Unsurprisingly, that offended Mexicos Ambassador here, who didnt like the idea and formally protested Litzmans statement. Israels foreign ministry had to apologize, saying Litzman was just kidding. In any event, Litzmans call has gone unheated. The press and the public continue to call it swine flu.
Muslims are also restricted from eating pork, but when contacted, Palestinian officials said the proposed name change was an Israeli matter and they said they would continue to call the illness swine flu. They say the most important issue is stopping the spread of the disease. They will be meeting with their Israeli and Jordanian counterparts tomorrow.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News.
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