Pathetic

Somehow I am on a couple of Minutemen / anti-immigration email lists  (I suppose I was put there by a staffer that did not read my site very carefully).  Anyway, I got this from some such group called the ALIPAC:

While hyper political correctness tries to hold sway in America as not to offend or disrupt trade with our Mexican neighbors to the south, the official name of the new flu pandemic is Mexican Flu and not the PC terms 'Swine Flu' or 'H1N1'.

Swine Flu and H1N1 are terms that describe large volumes of flu like viruses and not the specific strain at hand. Traditionally, pandemic flu strains are named after their points of origin. The point of origin for the new H1N1 pandemic flu, with swine flu DNA components is Mexico.

"It's a sad day in America, when you can't even call this pandemic strain by it's proper name 'Mexican Flu'," said William Gheen. "We are calling on all members of the media and citizens alike to refer to this pandemic virus as the Mexican Flu."

The World Health Organization (WHO) and several nations are now referring to the new H1N1 pandemic strain from Mexico as the 'Mexican Flu' which is now the official name.

The last three global pandemic flu viruses were named the Hong Kong Flu (1968), the Asian Flu (1957), and the Spanish Flu (1918).

Yeah, I am just sure these guys would have issued this same press release had the virus originated in Canada.  The attempt here to try to tar an entire ethnic group by hanging this flu around their necks is so transparent that I can't believe someone actually had the guts to issue this press release.  And I find it hilarious that a strongly Conservative group suddenly is looking piously to a UN organization (the WHO) for "official" guidance.  That had me laughing out loud.

I am glad he mentions the Spanish Flu, because it both 1) proves the author is historically illiterate and 2) shows the danger of trying to hang blame for a pandemic on one particular country.

First, it is pretty clear that the Spanish Flu did not begin in Spain.  As I understand it, as the world's governments clamped down on the media and suppressed news of the pandemic, the Spanish media was (relatively) unregulated.  The world therefore had a lot of its first reports about the flu from Spain, even though the first cases were not there, so people got in the habit of referring to the Spanish flu.

In fact, America firsters at the ALIPAC need to be really careful on this naming thing.  One of the leading theories of the Spanish flu's origins was that it began in the US (possibly Kansas or Boston) or at least that the mutation to its more deadly form occurred in the US, and then was brought to Europe by American soldiers.   I suppose if the ALIPAC is willing to call the 1919 flu the American Army flu, then I will call the current one the Mexican flu.

By the way, we as Americans should be very, very careful trying to demonize and wall off Mexico over this flu.  Because it might feel good here, but around the rest of the world most nations are lumping the US and Mexico together as the source, so any worldwide calls for closing borders and isolation are likely to backfire against the US.

  • Regardless of their motives, their message is correct.

    Emerging infectious diseases are named after where they are first detected (Spanish flu is old enough that it predates that).

    For example, Ebola virus was first found near the Ebola river.

    Marburg virus (a very close relative of Ebola) was first discovered in a patient in Marburg, Germany, even though he had become infected in the Congo, where Marburg occasionally appears.

    Hantavirus was named after the Hantaan River in Korea, as it was discovered during the Korean War.

    On the other hand, here is what politicizing the science brings us:

    The specific virus in the US referred to as Hantavirus is a specific species known as "sin nombre virus." No, it wasn't found near "sin nombre." It's original name was Canyon del Muerte virus (Canyon of Death) but the Navajos objected because it had the word "death" in it. Then it was changed to the "Four Corners virus" because it was found Canyon del Muerte is near the Four Corners. Politicos from the four states got upset at that, so the frustrated scientists named it "No Name Virus" (sin nombre).

    They can only do that once, so the Mexican Swine Flu is going to take more creativity.

    Or we could do what makes sense: call it the Mexican Flu and move on.

  • Bob Smith

    Why shouldn't we wall off Mexico? The more people die there the greater the pressure to cross our border, bringing both more illegals we don't want and more importantly, more infected illegals who will avoid the authorities for fear of being deported.

  • Well, the pig farmers are winning. It is no longer Swine Flu, even though the genetics indicate clearly that it is a direct descendant of two known strains of swine flu.

    Oh, and its no longer Mexican flu.

    Just 2009 Influence A(H1N1)

    Sigh

  • Andrew

    Emerging infectious diseases are named after where they are first detected

    What about the avian flu and SARS?

  • Bryan

    While the nomenclature that ID people use from new diseases is in no way ironclad, naming a disease after the place where it was first identified is a valid and fairly common practice.

    A new desease or strain will be classified at several levels. For instance, this bug could be classified as: Influenza, Swine Flu, 2009 Influence A(H1N1). Swine Flu is a very general label. One ID doc I know commented that you might as well just call the strains that go around every year "Human Flu" as call this particular strain Swine Flu.

    But what we are all really talking about is what the 'common' name for this strain will be. What it will be refered to as in the media and in everyday conversation. It could end up as "Swine Flu", terribly imprecise, but possible. It could end up as "Mexican Flu". It could end up as "2009 Swine Flu". I suppose it could even end up as "2009 influence A. Personally my bet is on "Mexican Swine Flu."

  • Spiro

    Personally, I prefer "The Flu con puerco"

    It gives it a great multi-cultural flair, and makes me hungry for a combo platter.

  • Andrew,

    Avian flu is a generic classification, not the name of an organism from a specific outbreak.

    I don't know about SARS - it sounds like another exception.

    Bryan... my bet is they'll call it "Swine Flu."

  • Stan

    I agree Warren. But, and this is slightly off topic, I've never understood your position on immigration (including illegal immigration). I consider myself a libertarian and support the easing and increase of legal immigration. But I do not support open borders or illegal immigration --it kinda goes with the whole concept of a sovereign state.

  • Craig

    The entrance of diseases to the US via the southern border is a big deal. We are seeing tuberculosis reappear in the US via that avenue, for example, along with E. coli from Mexican produce. So for these groups to highlight the health risk of an open border is valid, I think.

  • Craig makes a good point. TB from Mexico is probably a bigger threat than swine flu - if for no other reason than that the flu will get here anyway.

  • It seems to that the entire post misses a much larger point: What pandemic exists? The Swine/H1N1/Mexican Flu is not now nor was it ever a pandemic.

  • Unless the flu stop spreading (possible since we are at the end of the flu season in the northern hemisphere), it will be a pandemic shortly. Otherwise, it will almost certainly become one next fall.

  • Bryan

    Ok so I'm listening to NPR this morning (not my choice, it's something of a weekend tradition) and they start talking about swine flu. And I kid you not, this is how they started off: "Swine Flu, or as we have been instructed to call it, The H1N1 Virus...".

    Unbelieveable, there is no way in hell that a serious doc or epidemiologist came up with that asinine label. "H1N1 Virus" is an order of magnitude less precise even than "Swine Flu". Which begs for some questions to be asked. Who came up with the name? Why did they decide that it was a good idea?

  • Bryan

    @ John Moore

    Next fall is what has people worried. The classic pattern for pandemics in recent history is two waves. The first wave is somewhat low intenisty, and the second wave comes some months later with a more virulent strain.

    The theory is that a new strain gets introduced to the population, and once it is established it has a chance to borrow genes from other viruses and strains, becomeing more deadly/contagous. There are two theories on how to deal with this, one theory says that you should jump on the new strain as hard and quick as possible to prevent it from spreading in the population in the first place. The other theory says that you should let a new strain spread as widely as possible to give people at least some chance to gain an imunity.

    I'm sure you can tell what stratagy is being followed.

  • Actually, I think a third strategy is being followed: stomp on it now and develop a vaccine before the next wave.

    Of course, there's the question of what the flu does in the southern hemisphere while we're developing the vaccine.

  • Bryan

    There is probably---- certainly something to the idea of trying to supress the strain while you develope a vacine.

    I assume that by the southern hemisphere you mean Southeast Asia, I would agree with you that that is the most likely location for a radical reassortment to take place.

  • I have read that health officials are now faced with the unpleasant choice of producing a swine flu vaccine or the already designed seasonal vaccine, but not both, due to production limits.

    As for southern hemisphere, I mean that literally. The flu follows a season dependent pattern, favoring the winter. Winter is approaching in the southern hemisphere, hence the reference.

  • Bryan

    Ohh, seasons, gotcha.

    The fact that health officials have a delima doesn't suprise me. If anything, I'm suprised that they even have a chance to produce a new vaccine. IIRC, production takes 3 months.

    With regard to total capacity, the US only has the ability to produce 100-150 million doses each year. I'm sure the numbers vary from country to country, but I doubt anyone has the capacity to do two production runs at once and still get a meaningfull number of doses of each.

  • RFYoung

    My God! You are right!! Do you think we need to pay reparations to Hong Kong ???