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Swine Flu By Any Other Name ... Like H1N1

Swine flu or H1N1 ... what's your call?

We're having lots of debates about it in-house and with our companion news outlets.

You see the pork industry, for obvious reasons, would prefer the media to use the more scientific term. Can't blame it, really. Bacon isn't going to give you the flu, but with all the pig imagery associated with the epidemic coverage ... well, it can't be good for sales.

On the other hand, "swine flu" tends to be a more reader/viewer friendly term. Writers and reporters are constantly prodded to avoid alphabet-soup, jargony terminology. Also, some journos tend to get their hackles up when pushed by industry or government to adopt a certain phraseology. It's that "fight the spin" instinct that, frankly, can go a little far.

The journalistic fall back of Do What's Accurate isn't a whole lot of help here either. H1N1 actually refers to strains that have appeared in previous years. If we want to be full blown accurate, it'd be "2009 H1N1" or "Novel H1N1" -- even more of a mouthful. "Swine flu" seems to be the accepted name for what's going on now. And this strain of flu, while it has human and avian elements, is about half-swine based.

We're probably going to go with a switch-hitting approach ... use whichever term is more appropriate for the context. Scientific discussions should lend themselves to H1N1. General reporting on public fear will be more about "swine flu." But our debate is ongoing.