A Pig By Any Other Name

The pork lobby has been upset about the way in which the latest influenza outbreak is being called swine flu. Some sources are giving in and are using the more scientific terminology of H1N1 flu instead. I noted that today the CDC is using H1N1 but still has Swine Flu in parentheses. They have defended the legitimacy of also calling it swine flu:

In a briefing Tuesday, Richard Besser, acting director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, acknowledged that the agency’s use of the swine flu label was fueling the misconception that people could catch the new respiratory disease from food. “That’s not helpful to pork producers. That’s not helpful to people who eat pork,” Dr. Besser said. “And so we’re discussing: is there a better way to describe this that would not lead to inappropriate action on peoples’ part?”The flu that erupted in Mexico earlier this month is a big worry because it is transmitted between humans, who don’t have any immunity to the new strain. Medical authorities haven’t found any cases of people catching this new strain from contact with pigs or pork, nor has the new strain been detected in pigs.

Still, many scientists say the CDC is well within its rights to describe the disease as swine flu even though it seems to have mutated into a unique human virus. Flu viruses tend to be named after the first species in which they are discovered, and H1N1 was discovered in pigs decades ago.

Genetic sequencing of the new form of the H1N1 virus shows that it clearly had a long history in hogs before it made the leap into the human population and acquired its deadly new traits.

“The vast amount of material in it is in pigs,” said Michael T. Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

So far I don’t know that the pork industry has lost very much money because of any misconceptions about eating pork products. I’m far more worried about the affects of the pig scare in the 100 Acre Wood:


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