NNA president advises newspapers that H1N1 Virus is not really the “swine flu”

10/14/2009

WASHINGTON, DC — National Newspaper Association Cheryl Kaechele, publisher of the Allegan County (MI) News, today urged community newspapers to use precise language in coverage of the H1N1 flu virus. Technically, Kaechele said, the virus is not related to swine.

Kaechele said NNA was asked on behalf of pork producing states to clarify for readers that exposure to hogs, pork products or other swine is not the precipitator of the virus. Confusion from newspaper headlines that refers to H1N1 as “swine flu,” she said, has unfairly cast doubt upon the pork industry.

She said: “Here is what the Center for Disease Controls says about the H1N1 virus:”

This virus was originally referred to as “swine flu” because laboratory testing showed that many of the genes in this new virus were very similar to influenza viruses that normally occur in pigs (swine) in North America. But further study has shown that this new virus is very different from what normally circulates in North American pigs. It has two genes from flu viruses that normally circulate in pigs in Europe and Asia and bird (avian) genes and human genes. Scientists call this a “quadruple reassortant” virus.

As newspapers that often cover farming communities, she said, NNA member publications should be aware of the nature of this confusion and accurately label stories about the virus. She thanked Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo, for calling the issue to NNA’s attention.

CDC also provides useful tips for preventing illness, Kaechele said.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Keep away from others as much as possible to keep from making others sick.

Community newspapers can provide information on sensible management of the H1N1 season by contacting their public health agencies, she said. Information from CDC can be found at www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/qa.htm.

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