Putting Swine Flu in Perspective

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I’ve avoided blogging about swine flu since the virus emerged early this week, for several reasons.


First, information—some of it good, much of it bad—wasn’t exactly hard to find. Second, the real experts (versus the talking heads on cable news) needed to gather more information, and I was disgusted with the media circus and paranoia-fueled Internet conspiracy theorists that contributed to pandemic levels of lousy reporting.

“Before April 23, most people didn't know what swine flu was,” says Brooke Fisher, an assistant professor of communication at DePaul University in Chicago. “Now, it is one of the most heavily discussed topics by the international media and online through Twitter and other user-generated Internet sites. It is very important for first responders and the media to responsibly manage the information flow by not overdramatizing the situation and by providing concrete advice about what people can do to keep themselves healthy.” (Click here for a great New York Times article on media coverage.)

Everything you need to know about swine flu, renamed H1N1 after the pork industry started to freak out (more on that tomorrow), can be found here, at the CDC’s main information page. Bookmark it so you can check it regularly; it’s far less dramatic than most of the media coverage. You’ll find accurate, commonsense advice on how to protect yourself against this and other flu strains.

“More than 35,000 people die each year from seasonal flu-related causes,” says Jeanne Matthew, PhD, RN, an assistant professor of nursing at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC. “The swine flu outbreak is an opportunity to emphasize key prevention measures that hold true for seasonal and swine flu. Preventive efforts include covering your cough, washing your hands frequently and staying at home when you're sick.”

Photo courtesy of the CDC

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