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It’s H1N1 – Advisory Email Received to Not use “Swine” with Future Media Posts

Posted Aug 21 2009 11:05am

Perhaps everyone else in blogging or journalism may have received the same notification, so I’ll post here in case anyone missed it.  I had no idea that using the term had a negative impact on the pork industry, although I did post a while back that a few pigs actually did catch the flu, from humans. image

First Case of Pigs with Swine Flu Reported in Canada

It was interesting though when Bird Flu was gathering all the attention a while back that there was nothing wrong with using the word bird, and being my last name is Duck, I didn’t see where it hurt the poultry business, right, or didn’t bring any undue negative attention to this blog when I posted referencing the word “bird”.  Actually many used a lot of humor and the link below reflects someone’s humor relative to the bird flu issue. Even though I am a Duck by name, I still got a chuckle out of this one too.

Is this a Case of Bird Flu?

Ok, so now I’m confused, what do I call “bird flu”, any ideas?   I guess “Duck Flu” is out of the picture (grin), but H1N1 rules the media for sure and I’ll make sure I get the appropriate term in future posts and I don’t think anyone in media purposely used the term to hurt the pork business, self included.  It also appears that the flu is still very much in the news so no doubt H1N1 will still be very active in the media as fall gets closer, and the normal flu season starts it’s wrath.  BD  

Email advisory below:

I am writing to you about the critical role you play in providing balanced, accurate information to your viewers or readers about the Novel H1N1 2009 influenza virus.

Earlier this year, media reports were alarmist and frequently used the inaccurate term “swine flu” to describe this particular strain. And while the novel strain has some genetic markings derived from swine, it also has significant human and avian genetic fingerprints. Novel H1N1 is not a flu that was caused or spread by pig production nor is this virus transmitted to humans by consuming pork. Unfortunately, early media coverage left that impression, and this was and continues to be disruptive to farmers and the pork industry.

Since April 24, the date Novel H1N1 was made public, the losses incurred by pork producers, processors and retailers has totaled in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Experts are saying that if we project these losses to October 2009 the total will be well over $1 billion.image

It is not the American Meat Institute’s opinion alone that the inaccurate reporting is harmful. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Director General Bernard Vallat wrote, “This incorrect nomenclature has led many countries – at the beginning at least - to impose unjustified ban measures related to the import of pigs and pig products. It should be noted that the name of a disease always has heavy implications and has a very strong impact on the behavior of consumers worldwide.”

Most media responded to calls from the OIE and U.S. Government officials to use the term “H1N1.” Today, the term has become “Novel H1N1 2009.” Unfortunately, we have observed a return to the use of the term “swine flu” in media reports.

Virologists say the Novel H1N1 2009 virus MAY reemerge here in the fall and may be more virulent after circulating south of the equator. It is also possible that a pig within U.S. borders may become infected with the Novel H1N1 virus. If that should occur, experts, including OIE, USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unequivocally say this is not a food safety risk. A person cannot contract the flu from eating pork.

Novel H1N1 is a human disease. Pigs have not played any role in the spread of the virus. We urge you to remind your reporters and producers that continued use of the term “swine flu” is inappropriate and ask that your coverage de-link the virus from pigs or pork. We ask that you refrain from using pig graphics in your reporting as it reinforces the perception that a link has existed between the Novel H1N1 virus and pig production– something that is regrettable, inaccurate, yet commonly seen.

To read the OIE statement, click here:http://www.oie.int/eng/edito/en_lastedito.htm. If you should have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Janet M. Riley

American Meat Institute

Senior Vice President, Public Affairs

202/587-4245

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