“#SpanishFlu”: When #Infectious Disease #Names Blur #Origins and Stigmatize Those Infected (Am J Public Health, abstract)

[Source: US National Library of Medicine, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]

Am J Public Health. 2018 Sep 25:e1-e3. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2018.304645. [Epub ahead of print]

“Spanish Flu”: When Infectious Disease Names Blur Origins and Stigmatize Those Infected.

Hoppe T1.

Author information: 1 Trevor Hoppe is assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.



Despite not originating in Spain, the 1918 influenza pandemic is commonly known as the “Spanish flu”-a name that reflects a tendency in public health history to associate new infectious diseases with foreign nationals and foreign countries. Intentional or not, an effect of this naming convention is to communicate a causal relationship between foreign populations and the spread of infectious disease, potentially promoting irrational fear and stigma. I address two relevant issues to help contextualize these naming practices. First is whether, in an age of global hyperinterconnectedness, fear of the other is truly irrational or has a rational basis. The empirical literature assessing whether restricting global airline travel can mitigate the global spread of modern epidemics suggests that the role of travel may be overemphasized. Second is the persistence of xenophobic responses to infectious disease in the face of contrary evidence. To help explain this, I turn to the health communication literature. Scholars argue that promoting an association between foreigners and a particular epidemic can be a rhetorical strategy for either promoting fear or, alternatively, imparting a sense of safety to the public. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print September 25, 2018: e1-e3. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2018.304645).

PMID: 30252513 DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2018.304645

Keywords: Pandemic Influenza; Society.



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I am an Italian blogger, active since 2005 with main focus on emerging infectious diseases such as avian influenza, SARS, antibiotics resistance, and many other global Health issues. Other fields of interest are: climate change, global warming, geological and biological sciences. My activity consists mainly in collection and analysis of news, public services updates, confronting sources and making decision about what are the 'signals' of an impending crisis (an outbreak, for example). When a signal is detected, I follow traces during the entire course of an event. I started in 2005 my blog ''A TIME'S MEMORY'', now with more than 40,000 posts and 3 millions of web interactions. Subsequently I added an Italian Language blog, then discontinued because of very low traffic and interest. I contributed for seven years to a public forum (FluTrackers.com) in the midst of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014, I left the site to continue alone my data tracking job.

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