Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson is asking public health officials, academics and the media to refrain from calling the current H1N1 influenza pandemic "swine flu" as the characterization is both inaccurate and contributing to the collapse of the pork industry throughout North America.
Although health officials initially identified the outbreak as "swine flu" when it first emerged several months ago because of some common genes in the virus, they have subsequently determined that the outbreak is a new hybrid virus.
"It is unfortunate that pork producers and processors have been impacted so negatively by the inaccurate characterization of this virus," Bronson said. "But the fact is there have been no detections of swine flu in any swine herds in this country, and people cannot get this flu from eating pork."
Officials from the International Society for Infectious Diseases have stated, "… since we know nothing of how this particular virus has gotten into the human population, but there is apparently no history of swine exposure, it probably makes more sense epidemiologically to refer to this simply as H1N1 influenza virus."
Bronson said it is particularly important that the correct name of the virus is used now because news and general information about the virus are likely to increase as the country prepares for the H1N1 vaccine in advance of an expected resurgence of the virus.
"Health officials have repeatedly stated that pork is safe to eat as there's no threat to people from consuming properly handled and cooked pork," Bronson said. "Yet the continued use of the incorrect term for the H1N1 virus contributes to a distorted perception of pork and unnecessary economic calamity for pork producers, processors and distributors."