Sunday, May 03, 2009

Anyone Caught Bird Flu?

Is it true that, like politicians and governments, we get the news we deserve? Well I’d like someone to explain what we have done to get the hysterical news coverage over swine-flu. Today we get headlines like ‘Tamiflu: What you MUST know as swine flu threatens to strike,’ in the Mail on Sunday. While the Sunday Telegraph gives us – Flu pandemic could be as severe as 1968. The Sunday Times wades in with – ‘New swine flu alert despite doubts over dangers’. It’s the second item on the BBC’s home page.

Contrast the New York Times. I get their daily email news digest and there’s a small piece way down their headlines in the New York section. Similarly the LA Times, which is a great deal closer to Mexico, has barely a mention. Overall it’s a much lower level of reporting and a lot less hysterical. I’d tell you what is in the French and Dutch and German papers but I can’t read the language, but I bet it’s less there too There’s no doubt that something is sadly wrong with our type of media coverage of all these global scares and doom laden scenarios.

However, consider this. In America there are 160 confirmed cases of the virus and in Britain 15. There are thousands of times more visitors to Mexico from the USA than there are from Britain; added to which there are millions of Mexicans visit the US every year. So how come we have so many cases compared to the USA?

I don’t doubt that the two things are unconnected but it does seem that in our 24-hour news obsessed country that we just love a disaster.


Anonymous said...

Beyond my Boy Scouts First Aid badge, I have no formal medical qualifications, other than the vicarious qualification of being married to a GP....who doesn't scare easily and this one is worrying her.

At the time of writing, it looks like the first phase is losing strength and will die off. There will be a second phase that will affect more people but will also die off.

The third phase is the one that could really start to affect people on a grand scale. It will have mutated twice and will hit around the end of the year.

Hopefully, by then there will be a vaccine and we'll have built up more stocks of Tamiflu, so that everyone can be treated.

If there is a breakdown in society and civil unrest, my (non medically qualified) recommendation is to stock up on tinned food and bottled single malt.

Richard Havers said...

LL...with you on the Malt.

I totally get the secondary aspects etc. What I don't get is the British press...or the statistics!

Ken Dyer said...

It does make you wonder doesn’t it?

I rather like today’s headline quoting a mother whose daughter had caught Swine flu, saying “Its no worse than a normal cold”. I can still recall the Hong Kong Flu on Christmas 1968. I was 10 at the time. Admittedly it hit over the school holidays so I guess the chances of spreading were a little reduced. However I had it and my parents had it. In my case it lasted for about 3 weeks and my Dad was off work for 2 weeks. That was certainly a lot worse than what we appear to have now. Today it seems anything more than a mild cold is considered a flu virus and a good excuse to shut the schools and for the workforce to pull “sickies”. Being the skeptical so and so I am I tend to include this latest incarnation in that same category. I fully appreciate there have been deaths in Mexico and the US but it seems evident even at this early stage that as it spreads its strength is diminishing. One wonders if there hadn’t been the deaths whether any of this would have come to light…I sincerely doubt it.

So far it appears we have a handful of people in the UK with Swine flu…I wonder how many have just plain old flu? I suspect many many more. How many have been seriously ill so far in the UK as a result? Answer none. And yet it appears the media have got everyone in a panic, to the point we are now going to get a flyer through all our letterboxes presumably telling us not to sneeze over people and generally keep ourselves clean and hygienic…common sense I would have thought? I suffer from hayfever…I am now dreading sneezing in public in case I cause a complete evacuation of wherever I happen to be at the time. Mind you it may clear the queues at the checkouts of our local supermarket!

Still it’s captured the headlines and distracted everyone for a while from the recession and the trials and tribulations of the Government. And I guess it will maintain its position in the news with every new suspected case.

And finally…I believe the powers that be were changing the name of Swine flu to something less misleading (and that was less prejudice against our porky friends). I believe it was to be known as Influenza A variation H1N1. But I presume someone then had second thoughts when they realised the name was a little less headline grabbing. A pity as it might have saved the mass slaughter of pigs in Egypt!