Oddly Enough

Lebanese told not to kiss in anti-swine flu drive

A couple wearing surgical masks kiss each other goodbye as the woman is about to board a plane at the international airport in Cancun, Mexico in this file photo from April 27, 2009. REUTERS/Victor Ruiz

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Swine flu has not yet hit Lebanon but is threatening a national custom. Lebanese should stop greeting each other with kisses to the cheek, Health Minister Mohammad Khalifeh told a news conference on Tuesday called to explain measures to tackle the potential spread of the deadly strain.

“If you visit someone, don’t exchange kisses... Let’s stop the social kissing habit,” Khalifeh said. Lebanese have long greeted each other with three kisses to the cheek.

Other measures include keeping school children with flu at home and avoiding travel to countries where the virus has appeared. The new strain of swine flu has killed up to 149 people in Mexico. Israel, which borders Lebanon to the south, on Tuesday confirmed a case of the virus.

Reporting by Nadim Ladki, editing by Paul Casciato