What's in a name? Swine flu vs. H1N1 - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

What's in a name? Swine flu vs. H1N1

According to a WHO statement, flu viruses are not known to be transmissible to people through eating processed pork or other food products derived from pigs. © iStockphoto.com/Sean Locke According to a WHO statement, flu viruses are not known to be transmissible to people through eating processed pork or other food products derived from pigs. © iStockphoto.com/Sean Locke

By Lisa Spodak
Provided by WorldNow

A little confused about why some people are referring to the virus at the center of the current flu outbreak as "swine flu" and others are now using its scientific name "H1N1"?

When the first cases of the flu were reported, common usage was to refer to it as swine flu "because the largest component of this new virus was actually swine flu virus," explains Fiona Fleck, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization (WHO).

Swine influenza is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus.  Like all influenza viruses, this virus changes constantly and over the years different variations of swine flu viruses have emerged.  New viruses can also develop that are a mix of swine, human and/or avian flu like the current strain.

So while a large component of the new virus is the swine flu, Fleck says that research has not yet shown that the current strain can actually be transmitted by pigs or through pork products.

According to a WHO statement, flu viruses are not known to be transmissible to people through eating processed pork or other food products derived from pigs.  Heat treatments typically used to cook meat (ie, a core temperature of 70°C/160°F) will inactivate any viruses potentially present in raw meat.

This has not stopped people from mistakenly worrying about eating pork and, according to Fleck, has had an adverse impact on the livelihoods of those in the pork industry.

WHO has made an announcement that they will now be referring to the flu by its scientific name instead of the more colloquial "swine flu." 

"It's fairness," says Fleck.  "And of course we're a scientific organization. A(H1N1) is a scientific name. That's it. But the scientific name is not very user friendly. I think it would help all of us if we could find a name that's easier to say that's more popular."

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