Monday, April 27, 2009

Swine Flu Hysteria

OK, don't you think we've gone a bit overboard on this swine flu thing? I just heard about the swine flu for the first time this past Friday, and since then it's become a global pandemic. How did it balloon to such a huge problem in such a short time?

These folks suggest that Twitter is partly responsible. Certainly the media involvement can't be ignored either. I first heard about swine flu on the radio on Friday (for the first time in my life, that is!) and now it leads every major news broadcast. There are videos of people walking the streets in surgical masks, and a lot of people are scared about contracting the disease.

But how much of this is actually something to be worried about, and how much is just hysteria, fear mongering, and rumors? The LA Times posted some statistics on the swine flu about 45 minutes ago (11:15 am CST, April 27). So far there have only been 40 confirmed cases of swine flu in the U.S. and all of those have been mild cases, and only 1 of those forty cases has been hospitlaized (considering the population of the U.S. is over 300 million, I like those odds). The flu is easily treatable with common flu medications available by prescription.

There have been 103 deaths in Mexico that have been attributed to swine flu, but here's what the media isn't telling you about that number: only 26 of those 103 deaths has been confirmed as having been caused by swine flu! So far, out of a planet of more than 6 billion people, 26 have died, and that's a global pandemic? Isn't the regular flu technically more lethal than the swine flu?

The LA Times goes on to say that rumors of swine flu being reported in other countries are just that: rumors. There have been no confirmed cases other than in Mexico, the U.S. and Spain (two mild cases were just reported in Spain by travelers who just returned from Mexico). The World Health Organization says that the numbers being "bandied about" by the media are over inflated and not true.

It's amazing to me to see the inflated sense of hysteria that has occurred regarding the swine flu, if nowhere else than in the media. I guarantee that if you turned the news on right now, you'd hear about the global pandemic of swine flu, and see people walking around the streets wearing surgical masks. What, are they afraid they'll run into one of the 40 people who have the disease?!

This is just another instance of how people need to look for the facts before they decide how to react. It's also another example of how the news media doesn't always have it right, and certainly doesn't always portray an accurate picture of what's actually happening.

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