Saturday, 26 September 2009

The virus formerly known as swine flu

My thanks to fellow blogger Paging Dr Gupta for drawing my attention to the United States Department of Agriculture's attempt to stop the media and public calling the H1N1 virus 'swine flu'. Their argument is quite sound: "By continuing to mislabel the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus that is affecting human populations around the world, the media is causing undue and undeserved harm to America's agriculture industry, especially to pork producers." But let's be honest. What are the chance of anyone starting to call it "the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus". And how do you fit that on a front page headline or on a billboard. Other members of flublogia have pointed out that 'chicken pox' and even "Spanish" swine flu were also unfairly named but good luck to anyone who is going to try to dicate to the world a naming convention for diseases. It's the same with spelling and grammar. You won't find barbeque (instead of barbecue) or BBQ in the dictionary but that doesn't stop everyone spelling it like that. Dictionaries follow public opinion, not the other way round. The US Dept of Agriculture needs to rethink its strategy.

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