Letter to the Editor | Thursday, September 3, 2009
Spring semester last year, a group of Notre Dame students started a campaign against the “R word” to get us students thinking about whether what we say is what we really mean. Given this conscientious effort, I am surprised at the widespread and flippant use of the term “swine flu” to describe the H1N1 virus.
This name for the new strain of flu was coined by the mainstream media last spring in a flurry of irresponsible reporting. While there is such a thing as swine flu, humans rarely contract it – if you’re worried about swine flu, you must be planning on coming into extremely close contact with some sick pigs this fall.
The new H1N1 strain is a mutation of that virus – the novelty of the virus is precisely what is scary about it. It seems trivial to quibble over the name of the virus. It is, however, not at all trivial.
The loss of consumer confidence in pork following the hype over “swine flu” caused U.S. pork producers (a significant portion of our already tanking economy) to lose an average of $7.2 million per day. The irony: Even if the pig that your bacon came from had the new H1N1 (hint: unless it’s from Alberta, Canada, it didn’t), you can’t contract it by eating pork.
The point is that thousands of vital workers in the U.S. economy lost and will continue to lose millions of dollars this year for no reason other than ignorance – ignorance that spreads each time you use the term “swine flu.”