Passport

‘Swine flu’ name offensive, says Israeli health official

“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 ...

586286_090429_Pigs2.jpg

"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.)

Pigs, April 28, 2009, Colombia

“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.

Whatever you want to call it, check out FP‘s latest photo essay, “Pig Panic,” about the true “Spring Break Gone Wrong.”

RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

More from Foreign Policy

The Taliban delegation leaves the hotel after meeting with representatives of Russia, China, the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Qatar in Moscow on March 19.

China and the Taliban Begin Their Romance

Beijing has its eyes set on using Afghanistan as a strategic corridor once U.S. troops are out of the way.

An Afghan security member pours gasoline over a pile of seized drugs and alcoholic drinks

The Taliban Are Breaking Bad

Meth is even more profitable than heroin—and is turbocharging the insurgency.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya addresses the U.N. Security Council from her office in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Sept. 4, 2020.

Belarus’s Unlikely New Leader

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya didn’t set out to challenge a brutal dictatorship.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid

What the Taliban Takeover Means for India

Kabul’s swift collapse leaves New Delhi with significant security concerns.