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Federal City Digest

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Name Game

While the president and secretary of agriculture have resisted calling the virus causing global outbreaks "swine flu" in the hope of mitigating damage to the pork industry, the message that it's now to be called the "2009 H1N1" flu virus has been slow to penetrate the federal bureaucracy.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Department of Homeland Security sent The Washington Post the flier "provided to airports and airlines . . . to post at check in counters and gates" and "also being handed out to all passengers arriving from Mexico." That flier called the disease "swine flu."

The flier's author, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Wednesday continued to use "swine flu" and did not alter its public information page -- http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/ -- to reflect any shift in terminology.

A high-ranking CDC scientist said "2009 H1N1" will not stick in the scientific community because the name could be confused with that of this year's seasonal flu.

As if to drive the point home, the CDC released fresh guidance for local health authorities on "cases of swine-origin influenza A (H1N1)" -- a document that went on to call the virus S-OIV, where the S and O stand for "swine origin."

WHAT TO WATCH

-- Swine flu and pirates may not have been high on the agenda when President Obama took office, but they are today on the Hill and around the agencies as Day 101 gets going. At 1 p.m., Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, above; Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Acting Director Richard E. Besser hold a live webcast at http://www.hhs.gov and http://www.cdc.gov on the flu outbreaks.

-- Also at 1 p.m., a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee holds a hearing on "International Efforts to Combat Maritime Piracy" with Stephen Mull, senior adviser to the under secretary for political affairs at the State Department, and Rear Adm. William Baumgartner, judge advocate general and chief counsel for the U.S. Coast Guard.

-- At 2:30, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a hearing on "Confronting Piracy off the Coast of Somalia" with recent pirate hostage Richard Phillips, left, captain of the Maersk Alabama; John Clancey, chairman of the Maersk shipping line; and Mull of the State Department.

-- Christina Romer, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, goes before the Joint Economic Committee at 10 a.m. to sketch the economic outlook.

-- Garance Franke-Ruta

federalcity@washpost.com

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