Archive for the ‘h1ni’ tag
Today, or should I say yesterday, as it’s 12:23 a.m. as I write this, the World Health Organization made it official: the H1N1 virus, known as swine flu, is a pandemic. And I, for one, couldn’t be giddier. I think we actually need more frightening, and quirkily-named, diseases looming over our heads. I think it’s actually time for another, good old-fashioned bubonic plague. That’ll get folks’ attention.
The media hype over the various strains, aveon bird flu, swine flu, the duck-billed platypus flu, the panda-monium flu, you name it, is getting a bit ridiculous. Regular ‘ol flu seems to be taking a back seat and getting a raw deal when it kills far more people than H1N1. How long have we been talking about this thing? Six months? Nine months? And in that time, we have about 145 deaths. Regular old flu kills 500,000 per year!
Howard Kurtz, speaking on May 11 of this year had this to say in response to a reader question about the media coverage of the H1N1 strain:
I have good news to report this morning. We’re not all going to die…
The tone and the volume were just out of proportion to what we knew about the outbreak. Of course it was a story that people were interested in, that journalists had to cover, that had the potential to turn into a public health crisis. But the key word is “potential.”
Even as medical reporters sounded cautionary notes, the saturation coverage turned excessive, even scary. And then, well, the thing fizzled…
I can’t tell you how many people have complained to me about what they see as the media’s wild overreaction on swine flu. Whatever short-term bump you might get in the ratings is outweighed by a loss of confidence among news consumers, and there’s no vaccine for that. — The Washington Post
But Media Matters seems to suggest the media had done its job in presenting the story about the flu strain “very well:”
The fact that half the country didn’t end up dead wouldn’t mean that the media hadn’t done it’s job. It would mean that the media had done its job very well - it had made the public aware of vital information in time for the public to act upon that information.
Is that what happened? I don’t know. But Kurtz, and many others, aren’t even considering the question of what would have happened had the media downplayed the story, or what could have happened.
Half the country didn’t die because this strain hasn’t spread enough, and it’s not near the destructor that we are led to believe it is. One hundred forty-four out of 28,000-plus is the sort of ratio that does not concern me. That amounts to 0.5 percent of those who get the H1N1 die from it. I don’t know what the same ratio for seasonal flu would be, but chances are, it’s much, much higher. This CNN story backs up this point. And this doesn’t even mention the H5N1 virus, of which the Wall Street Journal Market Watch story said it was “particularly deadly” but also that it was “relatively difficult to contract.” So, do I have like bite the head off an infected bird to get it or what?
Regardless, the media — and by media, I mean the news television networks, which aren’t really serious news organizations, just moneymakers and thrill-seekers and little more —in short had nothing to do with anything. Did Americans generally wash their hands more or buy some hand sanitizer and use it more from watching the news than they normally would have when this swine flu outbreak frenzy kicked in? I didn’t. Did you? Sothis is apparently the first case where WHO has declared a pandemic since the 1968 Hong Kong flu. How many did it kill? About 1 million.
A million versus 144. I’d say that’s rational.