"It really is the whole of humanity that is under threat in a pandemic." --Margaret Chan, MD, Director-General of the WHO
What a terrible statement.
While I will say – again – that we have a serious situation on our hands, comments like this one that Dr. Chan made are what will stir the “panic pot”. And in my view it was an inappropriate thing for her to say.
I’ve been following this H1N1 situation pretty closely, as I think many of you who read this blog have been doing. I personally decided to not call it “swine flu” because it hasn’t truly been found to originate purely with swine. The virus in its current form has been found to be a re-assortment of swine, avian, and human Influenza all combined. The overwhelming issue with this strain is that it has never been seen before. Because of this, no immunity to it exists. Neither does a vaccine, although there has been a serious effort to jump-start production of one. The only issue with this is that a vaccine isn’t forecast to be available until this coming Fall.
It is indeed spreading; based on all of the information that is available, there is no disputing that. But I will say that if you look at all of the reported cases – as of yesterday there were 148 laboratory confirmed cases reported worldwide – I would maintain my opinion that as long as proper precautions are taken the incidence can be kept to a reasonable minimum. However, there have been deaths outside of Mexico, and there will likely be more; it was reported that a 23-month old male died at the Texas Children’s Medical Center. It was also reported that this child came over the border with his family and died 5 days later. Apparently this child was already infected at the time he and his family came from Mexico.
The WHO has set the pandemic alert level, as of yesterday’s reporting, to 5. The highest level is 6. At this level, person-to-person contact is the main transmission vehicle of the virus within the community, and transmission is widespread. Being at level 5, spread of the virus is reported to be “nearly pandemic”, and the folks at both the WHO and the CDC are saying the situation is nearly at that point.
If you go to the public health sites doing the following and reporting of this situation, said sites are doing their best to keep the public informed. I never expected to say this, but I especially like what the CDC is doing; they are doing an excellent job keeping us all up to date on what is going on. However, the media’s reporting of this situation feels to me – and this is simply my perception – like we’re in the midst of a new type of “Andromeda Strain”, in terms of the seriousness of the spread. Many of the news outlets doing the reporting – not all, perhaps, but many - have taken this and ramped up the public’s level of fear in the way they have covered this. They’ve sensationalized this situation. And in my view, this is wrong. I’m not seeing a lot of information, but I am seeing what looks to me like an excess of the stories of people who have been severely affected by this.
Not that this story necessarily reflects my view, but look at the title. See what I mean?
Why can’t the media leave those people alone? Those that they are reporting on have enough problems and they don’t need to have the stuff they’re dealing with broadcast to the world.
It really bugs me to see this.