Swine Flu Fever

in Media

There's a famous quote about the power of media.

"Media may not be successful in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling readers what to think about."

I'm not exactly sure who said it, but whoever it was they hit the nail on the head. The media doesn't usually change people's opinions about topics, but they control what people think, and subsequently, talk about.

A perfect example of this media control is the recent media blitzkrieg of swine flu coverage.

Since the swine flu story broke a couple of weeks ago, it seems the anchors on the 24-hour news networks haven't breathed without mentioning the virus. There were minor interruptions to the coverage, like a crazy high speed semi-truck chase, but the majority of stories revolved around the outbreak.

I wouldn't be surprised if damn near every doctor in the country has now appeared on either TV or print discussing the dreaded swine flu.

As most people have come to realize, the media's coverage of the swine flu has been over-the-top to say the least. CNN sent health reporter Sanjay Gupta down to Mexico to cover the outbreak (way to draw the short stick Sanjay) and Fox News even ran an article online suggesting we stop shaking hands.

Even Vice President Joe Biden has sounded the alarm saying people should avoid subways and other modes of public transportation.

If you listened solely to the media you'd probably be locked in your home wearing a protective mask and coughing into a wet wash cloth.

The facts are simple, swine flu is nasty, but it's nothing to have a media frenzy about.

The latest numbers from the World Health Organization show 658 confirmed cases of swine flu worldwide. The virus has spread to a reported 16 countries and has taken 17 lives. That's out of six billion people living on this earth and 195 countries. To put it into some perspective, swine flu has infected .0000000001096% of the population and is confirmed in 8% of the world's countries.

Seems a tad miniscule doesn't it?

Also keep in mind that last year alone the regular seasonal flu took the lives of 36,000 people in the United States alone. Meanwhile the swine flu has taken one life in the United States, and he was a Mexican child in the U.S. receiving treatment. The more we hear about the spread of the swine flu, the more research is coming out that suggests it's not as deadly as we originally believed.

Dr. Nancy Cox, the head of the Center for Disease Control's influenza division, has already come out and said that this outbreak of the H1N1 virus isn't nearly as bad as the outbreak in 1918.

"What we have found by looking very carefully at the sequence of the new H1N1 virus is that we're not seeing the markers for virulence that we saw in the 1918 virus," she said.

Outside from it not being as deadly as flu outbreaks in years past, there's also a treatment for the swine flu called the Tamiflu. If taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms it can subdue most affects of the flu.

When you look at all the facts, it's fairly clear that the swine flu is small, for now. However, with the media in a tizzy about the potential for a "pandemic" the American people are following along.

A Harvard School of Public Health study found that 46% of Americans are concerned about catching the swine flu in the next year, 20% of those are very concerned about catching it. Meanwhile 53% are not concerned at all. That's a lot of people concerned for a virus that has infected just over 100 Americans.

Don't get me wrong, swine flu may be dangerous, and it may spread to be a pandemic, but the keyword there is "may." This is a virus that has affected a very small portion of the world and has killed an even smaller potion; the media should report it with those facts in mind.

It's time for the media to move along, we're tired of the swine flu; give us something else to think about.

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Jacob Bodnar has 1 articles online

Jacob Bodnar is the host and producer of the weekly conservative podcast The Current Podcast. His shows and columns can be accessed at http://www.thecurrentpodcast.com He also blogs at http://www.JacobBodnar.com.

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Swine Flu Fever

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This article was published on 2010/04/03
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