EU ministers meet on swine flu name change

EU health ministers will discuss today what advice to give travellers in the swine flu outbreak – and what better name to give the latest “novel” virus.

They will also be discussing the closest possible cooperation between national health authorities and the deployment of flu vaccines, a new version of which could be available in 200 days to counter infection.

EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said: “We have learned valuable lessons from past experiences with Sars and avian influenza. Not only are surveillance systems more robust today but we have also developed stronger collaboration mechanisms both at EU level with our partners around the world.

“I am convinced that we are in a better position today to protect EU citizens from health threats such as this novel flu virus.”

All Commission officials are under instructions not to call the new virus “swine flu”, because of fears that the term suggests a threat from pigs - something which is already hitting pork sales, and thus farmers.

The Commission insists the current virus – a mix of avian, swine and human flu - is one that cannot pass from animals to humans, but only from humans to humans.

A Commission statement today said Brussels was leading national coordination efforts to exchange information on identifying cases and taking action.

“The situation is changing rapidly and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is monitoring the situation on a continuous basis.”

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