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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - What's in a name? U.S. pork producers are finding that the name of the virus spreading from Mexico is having an impact on their business, prompting U.S. officials to argue for changing the name from swine flu.
At a press briefing, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack took pains to repeatedly refer to the flu as the "H1N1 virus."
Israel has 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.
For U.S. pork producers the swine flu name has hurt, forcing government officials into the position of stressing that American pork is safe to eat and that other countries should not ban imports.
Pork, soybean and corn prices have fallen in the last two days, "and if this continues, obviously you have significant potential, which is why it's important to get this right," Vilsack said.
"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," he said.
Reporting by Tabassum Zakaria