Swine flu virus
Swine flu virusIsrael News Photo: (file)

Jewish schools in Brooklyn, New York have begun to follow their public school counterparts and are canceling classes in hopes of containing the spread of the swine flu virus.

Four yeshivas located in the neighborhood of Flatbush had closed their doors by Sunday, according to New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind. Each school had seen an increasing number of students stay home sick.

One of the institutions – Yeshiva Shaarei Torah – is comprised of four schools, including separate elementary and high schools for boys and girls. All will close until after the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which begins Thursday night and ends in the Diaspora after sundown on Saturday.

Magen David Yeshiva, Mesores Bais Yaakov and Yeshiva Tiferes Yisroel also decided to cancel classes for this week, taking advantage of the shortened week due to the upcoming holiday and the prior extended American Memorial Day weekend. At least two students were diagnosed with the H1N1 virus last week in Magen David Yeshiva. One student in Yeshiva Shaarei Torah has come down with the illness as well. A student was also diagnosed in Yeshiva Tiferes Yisroel, an educational institution for boys comprised of an elementary school, a high school and a post-secondary Beis Medresh.

Meanwhile, the disease has claimed a second victim in New York.

City health officials refused to release specific information about the death, including her name, age, name of the hospital where she was admitted and the exact date of her death. But spokeswoman Scaperotti did say the woman, in her 50’s, had an underlying medical condition and had died within the past two days. Laboratory testing had confirmed that she had suffered from the H1N1 virus.

The Big Apple has continued to see a rise in the number of people hospitalized with the swine flu; between Friday and Sunday the number of admissions rose from 57 to 94. The figure includes all those that were hospitalized since the first outbreak of the virus hit the city toward the end of April.

In the United States, there have been 11 confirmed deaths resulting from the swine flu. A Jewish vice principal at a Queens middle school became the first New York victim on May 17.

Reduced Risk in Israel

New cases of the virus continue to be diagnosed in Israel as well, but at a much slower rate.

A 24-year-old man was diagnosed with the swine flu on Saturday, becoming the eighth person in the Jewish State to come down with the virus. He had recently returned from the United States and was presumed to have contracted the illness there. A second man had also been hospitalized due to concerns that he may have the virus as well.

Nonetheless, the risk has been vastly reduced by the aggressive health management measures taken by the government. Doctors stationed at each border crossing continue to examine any person entering the country who shows signs of illness. At Ben Gurion International Airport, a special clinic was set up to screen incoming travelers as well.

However, not every passenger on every flight is checked, nor is every traveler even aware of the issue. 

“You mean that’s come up here now, too?” asked Avraham Weingarten in surprise. The New York businessman arrived from Brooklyn last week, unaware that swine flu had hit the Middle East.

Weingarten told Israel National News that no one asked him about his health status, nor was any announcement made on the plane, a Continental Airlines flight, before or after his arrival at Ben Gurion airport.

According to Absorption Ministry spokesman Yoash Ben Yitzchak, however, there is little risk of the illness being spread by new immigrants from the United States or other Western nations.

“Seventy percent of all new immigrants begin their new lives in Israel in rented or purchased homes,” he told Israel National News. “Very few immigrants from the Western countries enter absorption centers these days. Most enter homes which they have either rented or purchased and are surrounded with family, and not a lot of other immigrants or other people, which also reduces the risk.”