WHO renames swine flu, ‘influenza A H1N1’

April 30, 2009

The World Health Organization (WHO), bowing to pressure from meat industry producers and concerned governments, said today it would refer to a deadly new virus strain as influenza A (H1N1) not swine flu.

“From today, WHO will refer to the new influenza virus as ‘influenza A (H1N1)’,” it said in a brief announcement.

WHO has consistently said the disease cannot be caught from eating pork if it is prepared properly.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said Tuesday that the virus should not be called “swine flu” because there is no indication that any swine from the United States has been infected.

The World Organization for Animal Health, also known as the OIE, had recommended renaming the current influenza because it contains avian and human components and because no pig has been found to be ill. The OIE, which manages the fight against animal diseases globally, compared its preference for a geographic naming of this influenza to the Spanish influenza, a human flu pandemic with animal origin that killed more than 50 million people in 1918-1919.

According to Peter Cowen, associate professor of epidemiology and public health at North Carolina State University, the H1N1 virus is being called “swine flu” because of the 1918 outbreak in Spain. That virus, Cowen said, became known as the swine influenza virus because it caused significant mortality in both swine and human populations.

The reason this virus is being called swine flu, Cowen said, “is the history and evolution of the virus. It also rests on the fact the some of the genetic analysis indicates that elements from viruses that have traditionally been found in swine populations are incorporated.



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