Obama Administration: Out With the ‘Swine,’ In With the ‘H1N1 Virus’

By Caitlin Taylor

Apr 29, 2009 8:25am

In the Oval Office last night as Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was sworn in, President Obama said, "we wanted to swear her in right away because we’ve got a significant public health challenge that requires her immediate attention, and that is the H1N1 flu outbreak."

"H1N1"?

Well, yes. That’s the virus subtype the world is dealing with here.

Huh? Not "swine flu"?

On Sunday, the White House held a "press briefing on swine influenza."

On Monday, in his remarks before the National Academy of Sciences, President Obama used the unscientific name, referring to the virus as "swine flu."

What changed?

As has been noted by others, China, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Thailand, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates have all banned meat and pork products from some parts of the US, according to the office of US Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

The World Health Organization reiterated that one cannot contract the virus by eating pork, and pointed out that no pig had been found yet with this particular virus.

Representatives of certain agricultural industries made their displeasure known to the Obama administration, especially Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who said during a briefing on Tuesday that "there are a lot of hardworking families whose livelihood depends on us conveying this message of safety…and we want to reinforce the fact that we’re doing everything we possibly can to make sure that our hog industry is sound and safe and to make sure that consumers in this country and around the world know that American products are safe."

"This really isn’t swine flu. It’s H1N1 virus," Vilsack said. "We want to say to consumers here and abroad that there is no risk to you, there is no scientific evidence whatsoever that there is any link between consuming pork, prepared pork products, and the H1N1 virus."

Added Kirk, "We want to say to consumers here and abroad that there is no risk to you, there is no scientific evidence whatsoever that there is any link between consuming pork, prepared pork products, and the H1N1 virus." Kirk said that "we want to make sure that a handful of our trading partners don’t take advantage of this legitimate concern over public health and engage in behavior that could also damage the world’s economy."

Meanwhile, over at the Centers for Disease Control, the cdc.gov/swineflu page is up and running.

– jpt

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