Thankfully, it is turning out that the Swine Flu is not nearly sodeadly as first feared, which is a good thing for those worried mostlythat the virus might kill untold gobs of people. However, the virus isstill running wild in the area of political correctness, as millionsrisk being offended by the deadly pathogen.
First up is thegovernment of Mexico and all those who purport to be offended on behalfof Mexicans, who fretted that just because the virus was discovered inMexico that any efforts to contain its spread might be seen asbesmirching Mexicans.
All US agencies quickly announced that noeffort would be made to restrict travel to or from the flu’s epicenter,since the number of people exposed to a disease now apparently makes nodifference to how fast it spreads. The CDC, though, cautioned all sickAmericans to stay home from work and school, so that they would notexpose others to the disease if they have it. If allowing free travelinternationally while encouraging self-quarantine domestically seems alittle self-contradictory to you, then you are a xenophobic bastard. The job of the government is to make sure that all viruses have equalopportunity to immigrate to the United States and then to try torestrict the spread of each one on a house-by-house basis. Make sense?
If a new superpathogen ever does emerge, let’s hope that itdoes so in a well-educated, middle-class, white, protestant,English-speaking heterosexual neighborhood so that our government willactually be able to contain it without feeling guilty.
Next upto be offended was a Rabbi in Israel who said that it could bedisturbing to Jews and Muslims to contract any disease with “swine” inthe name. Well then, my advice is to only contract kosher viruses,then you and your family can be much happier about your death. “Mrs.Greenburg, I’m sorry, your husband is dead, but on the bright side hedied of the Matzo Ball Flu so there’s no dietary foul!” Apparently,this particular Rabbi believes that diseases are issued by thegovernment and should, like license plates, be universally acceptable. The offended Rabbi’s suggestion was to call the disease the “Mexicanflu,” but this would of course be offensive to anyone with a religionthat regards Mexicans as unclean.
Also, Mexicans objected — andepidemiology has generally already made a ruling on this topic. Itused to be standard practice, for reasons of practicality, to simplyname a disease after the site of its outbreak. Calling a strain “TheSpanish Flu,” for example, made life easy for epidemiologist who couldthen avoid constantly asking each other “now when you say ‘flu virus834B’ is that the one that broke out in Spain or the one that broke outin Hong Kong?” This practice was abandoned, however, when someonepointed out that tourism to the Ebola river valley never reallyrecovered after a minor disease was named after the place. So in orderto satisfy the Chambers of Commerce of Lyme, Connecticut and Marburg,Germany, scientists started using other naming systems.
Mysuggestion is for the CDC to sell the naming rights for all noveldiseases on the Internet. That way, the next time a nasty newhemorrhagic fever break out somewhere, Coca Cola can buy the rights andhave it officially named “The Pepsi Virus” (or perhaps “The PepsiDegeneration”). This practice would also raise badly needed funds forBarack “Spending Fever” Obama to bail out the United Auto Workers.
One must also be careful because of those who cannot seem to think past the
nameof a problem when trying to come up with a solution. A few years back,after the outbreak of the “Bird Flu” (which is offensive to pigeons, bythe way), Egypt began an indiscriminate jihad against all birds. Thismonth, upon hearing of the “Swine Flu,” Egypt similarly ordered theslaughter of every pig in the country. God knows what the Egyptiansmight do if any smart aleck scientist ever reports the outbreak of the“Egyptian Flu.” It should make for some interesting videos on YouTube,anyway.
If all this wasn’t bad enough, now we’ve been told thatpork producers also object to calling the virus “Swine Flu” and thatthe government is sensitive to their concerns. We can’t have baby backrib sales affected by a PR pandemic, can we? Especially not with allthose Midwestern primaries just two years away. In fairness, I supposethat “Pork: The Contagious White Meat” is a poor slogan. (Of course,the only case of a swine with swine flu that I’ve read about is somepoor Canadian pigs that got the Swine Flu from their owner.)
Nextwe will learn that Taco Bell has thoughts on the name of the virus, andthat the Department of Commerce is taking the complaints “seriously.”
Themedia’s suggestion is to avoid all offense to anyone by calling thedisease “H1N1” flu. Or, as I like to call it: H-Juan N-Juan. Oh wait,that’s offensive. Of course, other flus have had the genotype “H1N1,”so that name would be confusing for actual scientists. It makes thenon-kosher Egyptian-threatening Mexican Swine Flu sound just like theSpanish Flu of 1918, which would be a boon for sensationalists, but abit silly.
So here is a final suggestion: the next time a newflu breaks out, let’s just worry about stopping it, instead of who itmight offend.