JERUSALEM — The outbreak of swine flu should be renamed "Mexican" influenza in deference to Muslim and Jewish sensitivities over pork, according to an Israeli health official.
Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman said the reference to pigs is offensive to both religions and "we should call this Mexican flu and not swine flu," he told a news conference Monday at a hospital in central Israel.
Both Judaism and Islam consider pigs unclean and forbid the eating of pork products.
Scientists are unsure where the new swine flu virus originally emerged, though it was identified first in the United States. They say there is nothing about the virus that makes it "Mexican" and worry such a label would be stigmatizing.
Israel's Health Ministry on Tuesday confirmed the region's first swine flu case. The 26-year-old patient recently returned from Mexico, where he had contracted it. An official in the city of Netanya said the patient had recovered, but will remain hospitalized until the health ministry approves his release.
More than 150 people in Mexico have died after contracting the current strain of swine flu.
Laboratories in the U.S. and Canada have confirmed that of the samples tested so far, the swine flu virus in Mexico and U.S. appear to be the same.
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