- By P.J. Aroon
“We should call this Mexican flu and not swine flu,” Israeli deputy health minister Yakov Litzman — an ultra-Orthodox Jew — said April 27. He stated that the reference to pigs is offensive to Jews and Muslims, whose respective religions prohibit consumption of pork. Pork producers — likely worried about their product’s image — also have reservations about the name “swine flu.”
Of course, Mexicans probably find “Mexican flu” offensive, but the name does seem to fit with the tradition of naming flu pandemics after the places where they were originally identified. On the other hand, there’s debate about whether the current swine flu even originated in Mexico. “It was a human who brought this to Mexico,” the Mexican ambassador to China told the New York Times, saying that the person was from someplace in “Eurasia.” (The virus contains part of a swine flu virus of Eurasian origin.)
Meanwhile, “North American influenza” is the name suggested by the World Organisation for Animal Health. Additionally, “H1N1 virus” was the term used by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano at an April 28 news conference. They avoided using “swine flu” because they didn’t want to mislead people into thinking they could get the illness by eating pork.
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Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.| Passport |