Flu Fear Mongering

  Flu Fear Mongering

Each year, a billion people in the world get the flu, 3 to 5 million get severely ill from it, and 300,000 to 500,000 die. In the United States, a typical year sees 25 to 50 million flu cases, 150,000 flu patients hospitalized, and 30,000 to 40,000 flu-related deaths. Total U.S. H1N1 (“Swine Flu”) cases to date: 100.

Flu prospects this year look fairly typical so far. What is different is the media and information environment.

It’s not just the capacity of Twitter and blogs to spread and sustain rumor. The weakened economic condition of the mainstream media makes them susceptible to the infection of fear-mongering. Television is most vulnerable, since only the old and sick watch it these days, as all those commercials for pharmaceutical, OTC drug, and eldercare products clearly indicate.

Things have been a lot worse in the past. But while we may not have a pandemic, we surely have an infodemic. Chief symptom: acute congestion of the news hole. The flu has wiped out every other news story in its path.

Single issue advocates have surfed this wave of panic, linking the flu with religion, factory farming, meat eatingimmigration, and partisan politics.

Public health officials met after the SARS outbreak, and the World Health Organization published “Best Practices”  for Outbreak Communications, but “lessons observed” are not the same as “lessons learned.”  Vice President Biden, for one, seems to have missed the media training on this issue.

Read More:

“WHO Cautions Public on Alarmist Flu Predictions,” Joel Achenbach, David Brown, Rob Stein, Washington Post.

 

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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3 Responses to “Flu Fear Mongering”

  1. Fear of Flu « NotionsCapital Says:

    […] NotionsCapital has tried to innoculate readers against the tsunami of Swine Flu hysteria, our avatar (above) has succumbed to the prevailing […]

  2. Ashley Drake Says:

    @ Twitter – I thought this was a funny comic.

    http://xkcd.com/574/

    Enjoy 🙂

    Ashley is right. – ml

  3. When pigs fly and swine flu. « Ashley Drake Says:

    […] The influenza virus referred to by people smarter than me as influenza A virus subtype H1N1, has caused a panic that has spread globally at a rate  faster than the disease itself. […]

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