WHO changes flu virus strain name from swine flu

* WHO changes name of new virus strain from swine flu

A worker wears a mask as she talks on a walkie-talkie at Santiago's international airport April 27, 2009. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

* Now referred to as influenza A

* Meat industry had objected to pig link

GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Health Organization (WHO), bowing to pressure from meat industry producers and concerned governments, said on Thursday it would refer to a deadly new virus strain as influenza A (H1N1), not swine flu.

“From today, WHO will refer to the new influenza virus as ‘influenza A (H1N1)’,” it said on its website.

The new strain has infected 257 people. The WHO has confirmed eight deaths although many more people are suspected to have died from the virus.

It derives from a swine influenza virus but the new strain has been found only in people. While it contains mostly swine flu genetic sequences, it also contains small amounts of human and bird flu virus genetic material.

No pigs have been confirmed to be sick with it.

WHO has consistently said the disease cannot be caught from eating pork if it is prepared properly.

“There is also no risk of infection from this virus from consumption of well-cooked pork and pork products,” it said on its website on Thursday.

The name of the flu led several countries to ban imports of pork from Mexico and the United States, where the outbreak first appeared, and authorities in Egypt have ordered a cull of pigs.

U.S. and European food industries and governments had been calling for a change in name to remove the link in people’s minds between the disease and pigs.

The “influenza A (H1N1)” designation refers to a family of flu strains, including one of the current seasonal strains and the strain that caused the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed an estimated 40 million people or more.

(For more Reuters stories on swine flu, click on [nFLU])

(For more Reuters swine flu coverage, please click here:

here )

(For WHO information on swine flu, go to:

here )

Reporting by Jonathan Lynn; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay