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Luetkemeyer: Quit blaming pigs, call THAT flu something else

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 21, 2009 - U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, has joined two others on the House Small Business Committee  who "are expressing their concerns about the impact on the pork industry of the slang term being used to describe the H1N1 influenza virus..."

The trio has sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

In it, they call for the Obama administration "to take an active role to encourage the correct term when referring to the H1N1 virus, as well as educating consumers that pork is safe to eat."

The letter, says Luetkemeyer, is prompted by a recent committee that focused on "The Challenges of the 2009 H1N1 Influenza and its Potential Impact on Small Businesses and Healthcare Providers.”

Those challenges include an economic hit taken by the pork industry since last spring. The losses are estimated to approach $1 billion, "even though the USDA Agricultural Research Service found that H1N1 does not spread to meat,'' the congressman said in a statement.

“I have talked to many pork producers in my district who say the slang term being used to describe the H1N1 virus is only adding to the difficulties they are facing during these rough economic times,” Luetkemeyer said. “We hope the administration will take these concerns seriously by actively educating the press and the public about the use of the correct term so that people are made aware that H1N1 is NOT transmitted through pork products.”

In effect, Luetkemeyer and his allies are favoring an activist federal government -- at least when it comes to protecting pigs.

At least the U.S. pork industry isn't facing the problems confronting Egypt. Check out the New York Times' recent story on the aftermath of that country's massive slaughter of its pigs, in the wake of the swine flu moniker.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.