Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Should Swine Flu Be Politically Correct?

This needs to be filed under "do people think when they open their mouths?" Apparently the name of this recent outbreak of the influenza virus has some folks concerned that the name "swine flu" might cause offense. 

The Israeli deputy health minister Yakov Litzman has proposed the name "Mexican flu" because Muslims and Jews consider pork to be unclean. OK. I always thought that the eating of pork was prohibited but I guess I was wrong. Apparently merely saying the word "swine" will doom you to eternal damnation. Litzman obviously did not think that the Mexican government might be a little irritated at his suggestion, which of course, they were. The Israeli government retracted the proposal.

But we need to follow this line of reasoning. Are we going to rename the Hong Kong flu? How about the 1918 flu pandemic? That was called the Spanish flu. US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also does not like swine flu because it might hurt the pork industry. So we should then rename the bird flu as well. Why don't we just call the disease by its medical terminology - "Influenza A (H1N1) virus, human." Not nearly as easy to remember ("hey how about that outbreak of the Influenza A (H1N1) virus, human of 2009. That was a hell of a thing.") but at least the only species that would be offended would be humans. Pigs would be safe from defamation and Muslims and Jews would not have to worry - well, about what it is that they were worrying over.

The WHO has objected renaming the disease because that is what it has been called since the outbreak and the name is consistent with scientific naming convention. After all, it did come from a pig.

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