Bad names kill pigs

During the 2009 swine flu pandemic the authorities in Egypt had all 300,000 domestic pigs in the country slaughtered. The decision put thousands of farmers out of work and took an entire food source off the table. Not to mention the inhumanity of the whole thing.

It was the name. Bird flu had already caused panic around the world in the mid 2000s, when newspapers reported that the disease could pass from birds to humans. So when people saw the name ‘swine flu’, following the same naming template, they assumed they’d catch it from pigs. Despite the World Health Organisation repeatedly saying that couldn’t happen.

That example comes from the WHO’s Dr Keiji Fukuda, who’s just published some guidelines for naming new diseases.

Many will say it’s just abstract brand nonsense. But tell that to the thousands of needlessly panicked people.

And all those poor pigs.

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