Thankfully, it is turning out that the Swine Flu is not nearly so deadly as first feared, which is a good thing for those worried mostly that the virus might kill untold gobs of people. However, the virus is still running wild in the area of political correctness, as millions risk being offended by the deadly pathogen.
First up is the government of Mexico and all those who purport to be offended on behalf of Mexicans, who fretted that just because the virus was discovered in Mexico that any efforts to contain its spread might be seen as besmirching Mexicans.
All US agencies quickly announced that no effort 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 no difference to how fast it spreads. The CDC, though, cautioned all sick Americans to stay home from work and school, so that they would not expose others to the disease if they have it. If allowing free travel internationally while encouraging self-quarantine domestically seems a little self-contradictory to you, then you are a xenophobic bastard.
The job of the government is to make sure that all viruses have equal opportunity to immigrate to the United States and then to try to restrict the spread of each one on a house-by-house basis. Make sense?
If a new superpathogen ever does emerge, let’s hope that it does so in a well-educated, middle-class, white, protestant, English-speaking heterosexual neighborhood so that our government will actually be able to contain it without feeling guilty.
Next up to be offended was a Rabbi in Israel who said that it could be disturbing to Jews and Muslims to contract any disease with “swine” in the 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 he died of the Matzo Ball Flu so there’s no dietary foul!” Apparently, this particular Rabbi believes that diseases are issued by the government and should, like license plates, be universally acceptable. The offended Rabbi’s suggestion was to call the disease the “Mexican flu,” but this would of course be offensive to anyone with a religion that regards Mexicans as unclean.
Also, Mexicans objected — and epidemiology has generally already made a ruling on this topic. It used to be standard practice, for reasons of practicality, to simply name a disease after the site of its outbreak. Calling a strain “The Spanish Flu,” for example, made life easy for epidemiologist who could then avoid constantly asking each other “now when you say ‘flu virus 834B’ is that the one that broke out in Spain or the one that broke out in Hong Kong?” This practice was abandoned, however, when someone pointed out that tourism to the Ebola river valley never really recovered after a minor disease was named after the place. So in order to satisfy the Chambers of Commerce of Lyme, Connecticut and Marburg, Germany, scientists started using other naming systems.
My suggestion is for the CDC to sell the naming rights for all novel diseases on the Internet. That way, the next time a nasty new hemorrhagic fever break out somewhere, Coca Cola can buy the rights and have it officially named “The Pepsi Virus” (or perhaps “The Pepsi Degeneration”). This practice would also raise badly needed funds for Barack “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
name of 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, by the way), Egypt began an indiscriminate jihad against all birds. This month, upon hearing of the “Swine Flu,” Egypt similarly ordered the slaughter of every pig in the country. God knows what the Egyptians might 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 that pork producers also object to calling the virus “Swine Flu” and that the government is sensitive to their concerns. We can’t have baby back rib sales affected by a PR pandemic, can we? Especially not with all those Midwestern primaries just two years away. In fairness, I suppose that “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 some poor Canadian pigs that got the Swine Flu from their owner.)
Next we will learn that Taco Bell has thoughts on the name of the virus, and that the Department of Commerce is taking the complaints “seriously.”
The media’s suggestion is to avoid all offense to anyone by calling the disease “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 the non-kosher Egyptian-threatening Mexican Swine Flu sound just like the Spanish Flu of 1918, which would be a boon for sensationalists, but a bit silly.
So here is a final suggestion: the next time a new flu breaks out, let’s just worry about stopping it, instead of who it might offend.