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Skelton urges more responsibility when reporting H1N1 human flu
Skelton urges more responsibility when reporting H1N1 human flu

Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 11, 2009) — In letters sent today to the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Newspaper Association, and the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) urged national news outlets to be more responsible when reporting stories on H1N1 human influenza. Many national and local news reports have consistently and inaccurately referred to this virus solely as “swine flu,” which is contributing to misconceptions about the safety of American hogs and pork products. American hogs and pork are safe. Hog and pig markets are currently underperforming and pork producers are struggling. News outlets should not be making matters worse during this difficult time.

According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, Missouri producers raise over 3,100,000 hogs and pigs, and the state ranks seventh in the nation for hog and pig production.

Congressman Skelton’s letter is set forth below:

_____

September 11, 2009

The United States and our global neighbors are confronting a fresh outbreak of H1N1 human influenza. This outbreak was to be expected given the return of children to school and the natural onset of the fall flu season. As the government and American news media work to convey information to the public about this virus, it is critical that the communication be responsible.

While I appreciate that some news agencies have done a good job of properly identifying H1N1 human influenza, I have been extremely disappointed that some news outlets continue to refer to H1N1 human influenza solely as “swine flu.” Doing so contributes to the public’s misconception that the virus infects hogs or pork products at the grocery store. This is simply not the case and news directors should seriously consider phrasing reports more carefully.

When reporters repeatedly refer to H1N1 human influenza as “swine flu,” it hurts family farmers in Missouri and throughout the countryside. These references are especially damaging to pork producers who are already experiencing severe economic losses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that the “swine flu” viruses, which sicken animals, are very different from H1N1 human influenza. The Centers also point out that H1N1 human influenza is not spread by food and that humans cannot acquire the virus by eating pork or pork products.

I call on all members of the Radio and Television News Directors Association to consider the impact of reporters’ comment on America’s family farms. Referring to the virus as H1N1 human influenza would be the responsible thing for farmers and for the public at large. I look forward to hearing back from you on this matter.

Very truly yours,
Ike Skelton
Member of Congress

Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at http://www.house.gov/skelton.

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