Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

What's in a name? A lot, apparently

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WASHINGTON -- Is the name swine flu hogwash?

U.S. officials said Tuesday they may abandon the term swine flu, for fear it's confusing people into thinking they could catch it from pork -- which is flat-out wrong.

"We're discussing, is there a better way to describe this that would not lead to inappropriate actions on people's part?" said Dr. Richard Besser, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "In the public, we've been seeing a fair amount of misconception... and that's not helpful."

U.S. officials have tried to assure people that it's impossible to get pig strains of influenza from food. But by last weekend, China, Russia and Ukraine were banning imports of pork from Mexico and certain U.S. states.

Then came name complaints from abroad. Israeli officials suggested renaming it, saying the reference to pigs is offensive to Muslim and Jewish sensitivities over pork.

So what to call the novel swine flu now? Besser said the government hasn't decided yet on a change. But a Department of Homeland Security notice suggested the boring scientific route: "The current influenza situation should be referred to as H1N1 Flu Outbreak."

-- The Associated Press

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 29, 2009 A5

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