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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, May 1, 2009
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It’s wrong to
call it swine flu


The influenza virus spreading around the world should not be called swine flu, it is wrong and it is detrimental to the sale of pork, Albert Lim, president of the National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc., said yesterday.

Quoting the World Animal Health body, Lim said the more logical name for it would be the “North American influenza,” a name based on geographic origin.

The virus that is responsible for the current outbreak also contains avian and human components, and no pigs have been found ill with the disease, Lim pointed out.

It is safe to eat pork, he assured.

The World Health Organization yesterday warned a global swine flu pandemic was imminent, as more nations confirmed cases of a deadly disease that has spread round the world in a matter of days.

Although most of those now affected are not thought to be in serious danger, the flu's spread from Mexico to every corner of the globe has deepened fears that modern air travel can spread disease faster than anything in history.

Nations from Asia to Europe to the Americas announced new confirmed and suspected cases of the flu, believed to be a new strain of virus that has combined existing varieties of bird, swine and common human influenza.

Margaret Chan, the head of the WHO, said the warning level was being raised to phase five on a 1-6 scale -- meaning the threat of a pandemic was imminent and that time was "short" for nations to put emergency plans into action.

"All countries should immediately now activate their pandemic preparedness plans," Chan said. "The biggest question right now is how severe the pandemic might be."

Officials in Mexico, the epicentre of the outbreak, said eight people were confirmed dead while 91 infected people were healthy. They said the suspected death toll from the disease was 84, about half the previous number.

Some experts have suggested that the virus has weakened as it was carried elsewhere. The only confirmed swine flu death outside Mexico was a Mexican toddler in the United States announced on Wednesday.

"Unfortunately I would anticipate that we will see additional deaths," said Richard Besser, the acting head of the US Centers for Disease Control.*CPG/AFP

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