There are alarmists among us who start screaming “pandemic!” the minute they hear about a new virus strain. Consider them fringe elements.
And there are supposedly responsible journalists who, when reporting on a new virus strain, use the word pandemic as freely as epidemic or outbreak or widespead cases or isolated cases. I’ve come to think of them as fringe elements too. Unfortunately, these reporters represent the mainstream media, and every word they speak or write, no matter the topic, goes winging across the country and around the world. They are not the authorities, the experts, the be-all and end-all, the oracles, the bearers of truth. I often think most of us could do their jobs as well as they do.
The new strain of swine flu seems to be emanating from central and south Mexico right now. Hundreds of people there have been infected, and approximately 60 have died. At last report, only eight cases have been identified in the United States.
I just heard a reporter say this new flu has “infected thousands in the US and Mexico, and dozens have died.” Then he said only eight cases have been identified so far in the US, and the rest (approximately 850 at last report) were in Mexico. How many Americans missed that second statement because they were distracted by something or perhaps already running to call, IM, tweet, or scream to their friends and family that there’s a new flu pandemic and we’re all going to die!!? And that reporter didn’t even say “epidemic” or “pandemic.” Just a little exaggeration and misrepresentation.
Consider: A pandemic is a worldwide event affecting millions. The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19 struck an estimated 20-40% of the world’s population, killing an estimated 20 million people. In the US, about 500,000 people died. (An ordinary flu epidemic kills an average of 36,000 Americans.) The Asian flu pandemic of 1957-58 killed about 70,000 in the US, and the 1968-69 Hong Kong flu about 34,000 in the US.
So far, this is a swine flu outbreak. If not contained, it might become more widespread. It is far from being an epidemic or pandemic, and reporters should be extremely cautious and very precise when using those “fear” words. The Mexican, US, and Canadian governments are closely monitoring the situation. The WHO (World Health Organization) and CDC (Centers for Disease Control) also are monitoring.
Most of us hear about these things first from the MSM. That’s just the way it is in our society. But that should be just the starting point, your “heads up” that something is happening. If you are concerned and want the facts on the swine flu story, please, please, please get your information from the CDC or from your doctor. And of course, continue the common sense health measures we’ve all been taught: cover your coughs and sneezes and wash your hands frequently.
My apologies for the earlier inadvertent omission of the CDC link in the last paragraph of this post. Please be patient with the CDC site. They are being hit very hard by people seeking swine flu information and some of their pages may not be readily available. The WHO swine flu page is here.
Also see Pied Type’s The sky is falling … not