NAFTA Trade Delegates Denounce “Mischaracterization” Of H1N1

It’s time to stop calling H1N1 the “swine flu.” As they wrapped up the 19th annual meeting of the Tri-National Agricultural Accord in Gimli on Aug. 14, delegates from Canada, Mexico and the United States issued a joint appeal to the media and health officials to end the practice of using “technically incorrect” and inflammatory nicknames for new or existing public health concerns.

Calling H1N1 which contains genes from swine, human and avian influenzas, by its nickname “swine flu,” has resulted in confusion among consumers, trade and market disruptions, and has contributed to the collapse of the pork industry, the statement said.

“Since we know nothing of how this particular virus has gotten into the human population, but there apparently is no history of swine exposure, it probably makes more sense epidemiologically to refer to this simply as an H1N1 virus,” the joint statement said, quoting an earlier opinion issued by the International Society for Infectious Diseases.

Properly cooked and handled pork is safe to eat, the statement added, but the ongoing characterization of the pathogen as swine flu “contributes to a distorted perception of pork as a source of the disease” and perpetuates an “unwarranted and avoidable” economic calamity for pork producers, processors and distributors.

The delegates “respectfully requested” that academics, public health officials and the media immediately stop naming diseases after geographic locations or animals without regard to the consequences.

“Stigmas are impossible to overcome, are often unwarranted, and serve no purpose,” it said.

daniel. winters

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