The Name of the Flu

This irks me as a broadcaster and as a person.

The World Health Organization (that’s the W H O, not the “Who”, which is a legendary rock band that goes on its final farewell tour every few years) this week decided to officially change the name of the “swine flu” to the H1N1 or Influenza A because the use of the word “swine” was causing confusion.  Essentially, the pork producers made a big oink about it, believing people were being turned off of their products because of the flu’s name.  So the WHO (the one that doesn’t feature Roger Daltrey) relented and changed the name.

Now my media brethren all have their knickers in a knot over it.  Some are still saying swine flu and others have gone to H1N1.  The Health Ministry of New Zealand put out a news release stating that it would not stop using the term “swine flu” so as not to confuse its citizens whom it fears might think there’s a new flu outbreak on the horizon.  Apparently the government of New Zealand doesn’t think much of its peoples’ intelligence.

Get your ducks in a row news people!  Or in this case, your pigs. The issue is crystal clear to me regardless of whether you believe in putting pork on your fork.  The WHO (not the ones who sing Who Are You?) is the world’s authoritative voice on health policy and procedure.  When it talks, people listen.  They usually cough, drink plenty of liquids and make a few mad dashes to the bathroom too, but they also listen.  So if they have decided to change the name, media ought to follow.  How can you do the latest update on the outbreak or mini-pandemic or whatever it is today, and not use the terminology that the leading health authority uses?  Now people – and by people I mean media executives – are putting their own thoughts and spins on the validity of the name and it’s just leading to inconsistency and confusion.  Call it the flu “formerly known as swine” if you must but get with the program!  Either that or just ignore the WHO (which has no member named Pete Townshend) altogether and do your own flu tracking.  Oh and good luck with that!