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Swine Flu -- or H1N1 Influenza A

The WHO and governments around the world are trying their best to change the way the media refer to swine flu – they want to call it H1N1 Influenza A. That is much wordier than swine flu and the simpler name will probably continue to be used in common parlance, but I think the governments actually have a point. The simple reason is accuracy: The new virus has elements of avian flu, swine flu and human flu, so the oversimplification of the name has led countries such as Egypt to unnecessarily slaughter thousands of pigs, when doing so does absolutely nothing to reduce the risk of infection.

Some oversimplification is probably inevitable during an outbreak, but it almost always has bad effects. Many people in Mexico, for example, feel they are being blamed for the swine flu outbreak. Dubbing outbreaks with simplistic names – Asian flu, Hong Kong flu, even “NAFTA flu”– results in fingerpointing. Worst of all, such name-calling punishes countries that set up good surveillance systems and pick up on disease outbreaks, and rewards countries that are cavalier about public health. (If no one knows you have an outbreak, no one can say you were responsible for “starting it.”)

When it comes to global public health, we sink or swim together. Scientific names are accurate, but they also give people around the world the sense we are all in this together against a common foe – which happens to be true.

By Shankar Vedantam  |  April 30, 2009; 5:57 PM ET
Categories:  History , Rumors  
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Comments

Amen! It sounds like some intelligent public policy experts at the WHO have read Susan Sontag's "Illness as Metaphor"

Posted by: karljones | April 30, 2009 10:43 PM | Report abuse

This ought to be called the Mexican flu, after its point of origin.

Posted by: wsulek | April 30, 2009 10:50 PM | Report abuse

I would suggest researching where such a flu strain is made..Nothing in nature crosses 3 species.
There are many military laboratories however that specialize in these things.
Like Ft Dix NJ and Ft Detrick MD
this strain of influenza contains viral code fragments from:

• Human influenza
• Bird Flu from North America
• Swine flu from Europe
• Swine flu from Asia

It simultaniously started in Mexico, California,Canada, France Denmark & Spain...so what you want to call it now that you cannot blame the newest scape goats?
Wake up sheeple, this is man made and released on purpose - for whatever reason

Posted by: themikeb | April 30, 2009 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Your premise is false.

The new strain in a sense has "elements of avian flu, swine flu and human flu", but all those elements have been present in swine flu itself for the last decade, since a "triple recombination" of flu viruses in 1998.

So the current flu strain is most likely a new recombination of existing swine flu viruses.

The whole "it's not really swine flu" thing is a campaign of the hog industry, serving a decent end (trying to encourage the public that they can still eat pork products, which are safe) through a false method (implying this wasn't a mixing of swine flu viruses).

The problem is that we'll need public attention and pressure to get back at what were the roots of this outbreak, and if the public is left thinking 'gosh, this could have been caused by almost anything', then we'll never see the preventive measures that might postpone the next, possibly more dangerous, viral recombination.

Note the ridiculous pushback from CDC in this morning's Times piece - criticizing "internet rumors" about the purely swine flu origins. Even they had to admit in the very next graph that it's all been present in swine flu strains since 1998.

The next step is to notice the pattern -- where did the 98 recombination first show up? Where did this one first show up? There are common factors. Someone needs to report on that.

Posted by: wilson1204 | May 1, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

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