Name of deadly flu virus causes consternation

Wed Apr 29, 2009 12:41pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Timothy Heritage

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - What's in a name? A lot, when it comes to the H1N1 flu virus.

Hoping to calm consumers and protect the pork industry, the European Union's executive Commission is avoiding using "swine flu" to refer to the virus that has killed 159 people in Mexico and one in the United States. It prefers to say "novel flu."

Pork producers fear the term "swine flu" will not only cause consumption to fall but could also give countries an excuse to impose politically-motivated bans on meat imports.

"Not to have a negative effect on our industry, we decided to call it novel flu from now on," European Union Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou told reporters in Brussels.

"We know that the consumption of pork is safe ... (when) it is cooked," reiterating that there have been no cases of the virus being transmitted from pigs to humans.

Despite the Commission's public statements, EU sources said it had sent an internal document in which the term became confused. It referred to "novel flu" in English, "Mexican flu" in French and "swine flu" in German.

Even so, EU members Slovenia, Italy and Spain, and veterinary authorities in the Czech Republic, have started avoiding "swine flu."

Italian media still use "swine flu" but the country's authorities refer to "the A/H1N1 influenza virus."   Continued...

<p>Assistant agrarian technician Katja Meindl looks at some human saliva samples during the analysis for swine flu virus at an institute in Oberschleissheim near Munich, southern Germany, April 29, 2009. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle</p>