Swine Flu: blowing and overblowing

Medical researchers have warned us for years we are overdue for another deadly pandemic.  The Spanish Flu of 1918 and Hong Kong Flu of 1968-1969 are frequently referenced in public forums as prior examples of a common cycle.  By now people, US citizens at least, should be well informed about the potential of a new viral variant springing seemingly out of nowhere and laying low great swaths of clustered populations.

Maybe it’s a sense of anticlimax, or lingering echoes of the 1976 swine flu debacle, but numbers on a CNN poll (article here) indicate that by far most respondents think there’s too much news about the current outbreak.  To wit:

CNN Swine Flu Coverage Poll

CNN Swine Flu Coverage Poll

Which begs the question: if little or nothing at all had been said, how would these numbers look?

The more cynical among us are never satisfied.  They’re searching for reasons to rant.  But it’s disturbing to me to see such a vast majority of respondents wishing the news of a possible pandemic were toned down.

The great and tragic irony of cumulative-type disasters is that they’re only fully appreciated in hindsight.  But it is the job of many to stay vigilant, identify looming threats, and then make sure the potential gravity is communicated to the public at large before a devastating tipping point is reached.  Pandemics don’t start out big, folks.  They appear in pockets here and there, often simultaneously due to modern travel, in misleadingly small numbers.  By the time a pandemic has come into its own, the magnitude is impossible to deny or downplay.  Millions are dead.

I would caution the hardcore cynics to re-evaluate their negative outlook, at least in this regard.  Stop worrying about information overload and media flame-fanning and listen to what level heads in the mix are saying.  There is cause for concern here, and complaining about media exposure is not a useful response.

If Chicken Little is wrong, so what?  We had a helpful and timely drill at the very least.

But if he’s right… I’ve never seen a more appropriate instance of better safe than sorry.

2 responses to “Swine Flu: blowing and overblowing

  1. I hope that assessment is true. Still, there remains the possibility of further mutation. Regardless, I just have to wonder what the right amount of coverage would be for those thinking the potential was overhyped.

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