The Spanish flu stands as a monument to the ugly history of disease naming. The world was at war in 1918, and the belligerent nations censored their press, not wanting to damage their populations’ morale. Spain, however, was neutral in that war, and when the first cases of flu occurred there, they were widely reported. *The disease had been in the United States for two months already, and in France for several weeks at least, but that information was kept out of their newspapers. *
The naming of diseases has always been as much about politics and the human need to identify a scapegoat, as it has been about accurately labelling a new threat to life.