A flu by any other name

More fun with language.
U.S. officials want ‘swine’ out of flu name
:

U.S. pork producers are finding that the name of the virus spreading from Mexico is affecting their business, prompting U.S. officials to argue for changing the name from swine flu.

At a news briefing, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack took pains to repeatedly refer to the flu as the “H1N1 virus.”

“This is not a food-borne illness, virus. It is not correct to refer to it as swine flu because really that’s not what this is about,” Vilsack said.

Israel has already rejected the name swine flu, and opted to call it “Mexico flu.” Jewish dietary laws forbid eating pork.

The Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health also objected to the name, saying the virus contains avian and human components and no pig so far has been found ill with the disease.

And there is growing sentiment in the farm sector to call it the North American virus — although disease expert Anthony Fauci told a Senate hearing the “swine flu” designation reflected scientific naming protocol.

Why would Israel object to the name? Does it want the disease to be kosher? The world, though, should realize this strain of swine flu doesn’t come from swine or from eating pork. Egypt doesn’t need to slaughter all of its pigs.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Manxman

    George Orwell is somewhere laughing his butt off and feeling very prophetic.

  • Manxman

    George Orwell is somewhere laughing his butt off and feeling very prophetic.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    I like the name, "Flying Pig Flu," which one of James Lileks' commenters came up with the other day.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    I like the name, "Flying Pig Flu," which one of James Lileks' commenters came up with the other day.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/stadler stadler

    Do we really have to bring up Orwell's name every single time someone discusses the appropriateness of a label? To the degree that there is a misconception out there that this virus is associated with pork, Vilsack et al. have a point — though I have no idea if that misconception is popular or not right now.

    "Swine flu" may follow the scientific naming protocol (though I would have thought H1N1 was the more scientific name), but it doesn't convey any useful information about the virus to everyday people — namely, that it is spreading from person-to-person contact.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/stadler stadler

    Do we really have to bring up Orwell's name every single time someone discusses the appropriateness of a label? To the degree that there is a misconception out there that this virus is associated with pork, Vilsack et al. have a point — though I have no idea if that misconception is popular or not right now.

    "Swine flu" may follow the scientific naming protocol (though I would have thought H1N1 was the more scientific name), but it doesn't convey any useful information about the virus to everyday people — namely, that it is spreading from person-to-person contact.

  • Joe

    it is also incorrect as this flu is comprised of some sort of a hybrid of Swine, Bird and Person flu strains. (disclaimer – I am repeating what my friend who was a flu researcher told me).

  • Joe

    it is also incorrect as this flu is comprised of some sort of a hybrid of Swine, Bird and Person flu strains. (disclaimer – I am repeating what my friend who was a flu researcher told me).

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/WebMonk WebMonk

    Stadler, the H1N1 moniker is more of a "type" of virus, not a specific virus strain. H1N1 types of viri have been around for a long time, referred to as an H1N1 virus. Whenever we talk about a specific strain of that type of virus, we need to add on a more specific name.

    This one started in pigs and was in the excrement and other waste which was flushed out to where it got into the local water supply and started infecting people. Swine Flu works pretty well since it was a virus that existed in pigs and was then transmitted to people.

    Vilsack and Napolitano are doing public relations work for the pork industry, trying to make sure people don't stop eating pork just because of a confluence of names.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/WebMonk WebMonk

    Stadler, the H1N1 moniker is more of a "type" of virus, not a specific virus strain. H1N1 types of viri have been around for a long time, referred to as an H1N1 virus. Whenever we talk about a specific strain of that type of virus, we need to add on a more specific name.

    This one started in pigs and was in the excrement and other waste which was flushed out to where it got into the local water supply and started infecting people. Swine Flu works pretty well since it was a virus that existed in pigs and was then transmitted to people.

    Vilsack and Napolitano are doing public relations work for the pork industry, trying to make sure people don't stop eating pork just because of a confluence of names.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/rlewer rlewer

    Why are pigs being killed in Egypt? Only Christians raise pigs in Egypt. Another way for the Moslems to get at them.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/rlewer rlewer

    Why are pigs being killed in Egypt? Only Christians raise pigs in Egypt. Another way for the Moslems to get at them.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    From what I've read, this was named some time back, and the fact that both humans and pigs caught the flu was noticed in 1918. It had not been proven that the pigs had the same virus until about ten years later. And even then, it was not clear whether humans or pigs were the first to have this flu. (If humans had it first, then do the pigs call it the human flu? Have they stopped eating people as a result?)

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    From what I've read, this was named some time back, and the fact that both humans and pigs caught the flu was noticed in 1918. It had not been proven that the pigs had the same virus until about ten years later. And even then, it was not clear whether humans or pigs were the first to have this flu. (If humans had it first, then do the pigs call it the human flu? Have they stopped eating people as a result?)


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