Flu outbreak: Walking the line between hyping and helping

April 27, 2009

dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

There’s nothing like a disease outbreak to highlight the value of the media in alerting and informing the public in the face of an emergency.

There’s also nothing like it to bring out some of our more excessive behavior, essentially shouting “Run for your lives! (but, whatever you do, stay tuned, keep reading the website and don’t forget to buy the paper!).”

An outbreak of a form of influenza, which was known as swine flu before the World Health Organization changed the name, has killed scores in Mexico and infected others in the United States, Canada, Europe and New Zealand. It’s already having an effect on markets and travel plans, in addition to the obvious impact on public health.

The impact on markets could become more significant in time, but the impact on the media was practically immediate.

Cable television programmers went into crisis mode and a look at newspaper front pages and website home pages around the world showed a range of responses, from the almost hysterical to the concerned and more measured.

  • In the New York Daily News: “SWINE FLU SPREADS!” (though it was played below a sports story on the New York Yankees losing to the Boston Red Sox).
  • In the New York Post: “HOG WILD!” (also playing second to the Yankees’ humiliation, but illustrated with a pig sucking on a thermometer).
  • In The Japan Times (using a Reuters story): “Swine flu in Mexico sparks global panic”
  • In the South China Morning Post (which certainly has experience in covering bird flu and SARS): “Asia on high alert for swine flu as airports step up checks.”
  • In The Guardian: “Swine flu: call for global action as outbreak spreads.”
  • In the Toronto Sun: “CALM URGED AS FLU FEARS GROW.”

Later Monday, after the European Union health commissioner advised Europeans to postpone nonessential travel to the United States and Mexico, The New York Times led its website with “Europe Warned on U.S. Travel,” with a deck reflecting transatlantic disagreement, “Flu Advisory Unwarranted, C.D.C. Says.”

The BBC website focused on the confirmation of flu cases in the UK, with extensive Q&A’s on the origins of the disease and how it spreads and contributions from readers who were dealing with disease (some of them medical professionals in Mexico).

Big, bad-news stories can mean surges in audiences for media outlets and they certainly raise the adrenalin level of editors and reporters. They offer the temptation to go to excess, but they also offer the opportunity for us be of priceless service to our customers, clients and readers.

The question for me is how we in the media make sure we report accurately and informatively on the story and its impact on the markets and consumers’ lives without minimizing and without sensationalizing it.

“This is the type of story where our goal to stay factual and keep perspective is essential to uphold,” says Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger. “Our role is neither to trivialize nor to hype or scaremonger, but to describe accurately what is happening and put its implications in context.”

Reuters has focused a great deal of resources—rightly, given our customers and audience—on the implications for the markets and the impact on the global economic downturn.

On Monday afternoon, Reuters.com was leading with “Will global recovery catch the flu?” atop a package of stories on possible market scenarios, the EU travel warning and factboxes on health precautions and industries being affected. One story noted, not surprisingly, that travel and tourism stocks were in turmoil.

Reuters.com also featured a special coverage page with the latest news, accompanied by a sober presentation of “Swine Flu Facts.” There’s even an invitation to receive updates on Twitter. Call me a skeptic on Twitter, but 140 characters won’t do much to add context to the story. Still, no one ever said Twitter was about context and at least you can follow developments, whether or not you’re near a computer.

My Reuters colleagues—especially the ones working bravely and tirelessly in Mexico—are succeeding in upholding the goal of staying factual and keeping events in perspective. It’s our mission to provide the information and insight our audience and customers need to make intelligent decisions about their investments and their lives. As shown by the World Health Organization’s decision Monday to raise the pandemic alert to Level 4, and later to Level 5, there’s plenty of drama to report without adding to it.

The flu story is still in its early stages and it remains to be seen if this becomes one of the biggest stories of our time. Whatever happens, it won’t hurt us all to take a deep breath now.

74 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

BRAVO DEAN WRIGHT!! A glimmer of responsibility and intelligence afloat in a cesspool of media superlatives and hysteria. NOT ONE PERSON in ANY country with a real health care system has died from this flu. Stick to the actual facts as you promise Mr. Wright, and you will be working for the most best media outlet on the planet.

Posted by TJ Reader | Report as abusive

Firstly, media are ignorant in their reporting of important areas of Science. How many of your reporters have qualifications in Science? Secondly, you don’t invoke much confidence when you don’t know singular (is the medium) from plural (are the media), as demonstrated in your header.

Posted by Chickenlegs1 | Report as abusive

thanks for your balanced thoughts and perspective. i SO appreciate that. i’ve been living and breathing swine flu updates as i’m traveling to puerto vallarta in the morning… and the slants and facts leaving out key bits of information is annoying… also, when my friends and family are informed only by news sites that are reporting but also being scary about it, then i have to deal with them too!
it’s been a long weekend and my friend and i made the decision at the last minute today to go. we looked in to other destinations, but due to our nonrefundable ticket, high cost of other destinations should we take united up on their offer to change with no penalty, and plans later in the summer that will make it difficult (if not impossible, for me) to postpone this vacation, ultimately we are still going.
masks and all.

Thanks for your remarks; news organizations could be less hysterical and more restrained but I must be dreaming. But I read Reuters because television is trash and there’s very little outlets other than the Economist or The FT. Good work.

Posted by Andrew Franks | Report as abusive

Chickenlegs, unless the title of the piece was rewritten, the author is correct. Media is a collective singular. “Is the media” is correct.

Posted by David Pauls | Report as abusive

it is due to media i was able to refresh my knowledge of swine flu.good job media.

Posted by dr.avinash manwatkar. | Report as abusive

On a national talk radio broadcast this evening here in Honolulu we are told the flu media hype in America is a fear cover for the heating up investigations into torture -who’s- responsible news. It’s difficult for me to believe that, but I do know I have seen and listened to irresponsible reporting and turn to other than American sources of news for better clarity. Thanks Reuters!

Posted by Kate paine | Report as abusive

Very good points sir. The media should also stop and think of the impact to our economy that they are having. By hyping the story so much, they cause the government to spend amounts of time and money responding. Considering that we have over 100 deaths every day due to car accidents, having a bunch of people sick with the flu shouldn’t even be on our radar. The CDC and other agencies will inform us if it does start getting out of hand. This story was hyped so much that the president actually had to be briefed and make a statement. Over 40 people getting the flu? Gimme a break. Let’s all get a bit more realistic, aay? We plain can’t afford this kind of sensationalism for ratings any more.

Posted by Russ | Report as abusive

This is ridiculous!! The real story here is how the media is trying to turn this into something big when it is not! Reuters and others: Please stick to reporting the news instead of creating it! A lot to do about nothing!

Posted by Victoria | Report as abusive

My favourite so far is the BBC sending a TV crew to meet returning holidaymakers as they stepped off plane from Mexico. As a layman, I don’t _know_ that there’s a period when a person is infectious without showing symptoms (although I understand that’s pretty common with viruses), but at a time when we ought to be reducing opportunities for transmission rather than multiplying them, I thought it was an amusing touch.

Posted by Ian Kemmish | Report as abusive

Lock yourself in your house and watch American Idol and Survivor on TV. Stock up on garlic and oil of oregano. Buy the time I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here comes on TV in the summer …you should be able to venture outside.

Posted by Dr_Doom | Report as abusive

CNN International takes the cake for the most sensationalism with regards to this “crisis”.

Richard Quest – recently annointed CNN’s Expert on Economics – has been doomsaying the world economy of late. Now he has become the “Swine Flu Guru” and he is singlehandedly trying to scare the living h… out of anyone who happens to tune in. If the economy doesn’t get you, pig flu will!

I doubt that Ted Turner – who certainly was interested in commercial success – would have allowed this amount of sensationalism. It is truely shameful.

Quest should go back to his travel show: probably the only area where he has any expertise.

Posted by Paul Spellswell | Report as abusive

I have been following the updates as Im due to fly out on the 6th May 2009 for a honeymoon, I have been informed by my holiday insurers that whilst the warning by the F/O is in place our insurance is all null and void if we travel. We were still wanting to go with a supply of Tamiflu tablets just in case, however now they are suspending flights. None of the people outside of Mexico have died, the European countries obviously have a better standard of health facilities and diet contributing to this, however if this virus affects the young and the old then if we carry it we may infect people less healthy than ourselves etc on our return… so that is a concern… I think that the media tends to make the situation worse but that is not helping the poor Mexicans who have lost their lives!

Posted by kay robson | Report as abusive

While media generally sensationalizes the stories it can capitalize readership gains on. Make no mistake about it, Influenza and other communicable diseases are a clear and present danger. Weather or not the current “Swine Flu” is another worldwide Pandemic or not, we should be vigilant regarding the spread of communicable diseases and constantly refine our techniques to prevent the spread of fast spreading and potentially deadly disease.

Posted by DavidJ | Report as abusive

Hi all,

I would rather like to be laughed at for being prepared and nothing happens than being laughed at for not being prepared and something happens.

See physorg.com for a good article on how to avoid catching or spreading the virus.

Take care all.

Posted by Michel Tremblay | Report as abusive

Finally, an article about the human condition that doesn’t find it necessary to connect it to the economy. Humans evolved for millions of years without capitalism. If we’re lucky we might move forward without it.

A hundred or or so people die from the influenza and the media blitz’s is with coverage. I wish the “media” had more concern for the tens of thousands of children who die from preventable disease every day all for a lack of potable water. Where is that coverage? If we all new the cause of this condition there would be mass outrage. Or is it possible that since the poorest in the world have little electricity and no television there is no reason to broadcast their story. Besides that advertising market isn’t very lucrative.

When I pause to listen, I hear the devoutly religious express their belief that judgment day and destruction are at hand. Many agnostics and atheists have resigned themselves to humanity destroying itself and perhaps the planet along with them. I for one remain a little more hopeful. But if I am wrong then why have the influences of religion and logic left so many disinterested and unconcerned with the plight of our neediest brothers and sisters around the world?

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

The media as usual are blowing this epidemic out of all proportion. I do not know of a single media organisation that I wouuld trust to report any story , however trivial or important, with anything approaching responsibility and sensibility. The only sensible thing to do I think is to accept that the media is run by a small number people who take great pleasure in alarming the vast majority.Much of the depression felt by many people at the moment can be blamed totally on the media.

Posted by David Fawcett | Report as abusive

Thanks Dean,

I’m glad there are people out there who are not buying into the hype. If you look at the cases of the people hospitalize during the flu season you will see that the CDC has recorded 200,000 Americans had to be hospitalize and 36,000 died from flu complications and this the average for a regular flu season. Knowing this it will be awhile before you see me walking around in a mask.

Posted by Al | Report as abusive

Yet another sterling example why it is never a good idea to have unprotected sex with pigs…

or swines.

If you are a student of the history of the 1918 Influenza, you can see the similarities that cause concern. I bought 30 5 gal jugs of water, vitamins, staples. Why not?

Posted by Denese Jokela | Report as abusive

As a praticing Internist, I am appaled at the frank hysteria that the newsmedia is creating. This irresponsible behavior is not unlike an act of terrorism. This may be the best example of awful reporting made even worse by substituting the desire for sensationalism for true fact- base reporting. I dread seeing what will be said by the media, particularly CNN (which has reached new lows), when the rush to get medication results in a shortage. The population needs to know of the issues and know that the disease is treatable but doesn’t need to frightened by all the hyperbole. BTW, how does one define the “scores” who have died? What co-morbidities may have an influence? Thanks for raising the question even if you may be contributing to the problem.

The amount of fear and hype is over the top, how many of you are over 40 dont you remember this before?? and Tamiflu stock piles…. Donald Rumsfeld on the board….
And just in case the media cant report this properly, it is Mexico as of April 27, CONFIRMED 26 cases of infection with H1N1 virus, ANF THERE ARE ONLY 7 CONFIRMED DEATHS…. and INTERESTING not one other death reported in the WORLD. Check the facts yourself.. but the phamaceutical companies have increased their sale by 300%…
oh and lets not forget the quote from lloyds bank yesterday “Kenneth Broux, economist at Lloyds TSB. If the danger of a significant global outbreak proves limited, U.S. corporate earnings will reclaim their prominence in driving activity in currency markets. If it proves to be more serious, there will be more repatriation into dollar-denominated assets, he said.”
Wake up folks….
http://www.promedmail.org/pls/otn/f?p=24 00:1001:7626233442320714::NO::F2400_P100 1_BACK_PAGE,F2400_P1001_PUB_MAIL_ID:1000  ,77228

Posted by sharon | Report as abusive

This reminds me of the salmonella “outbreak” that flew around the US over the past few months. I think the total of “confirmed” cases was approaching 1000. It’s a shame that they neglected to report that there are over 1,000,000 (yeah, that’s 6 zeros) cases reported each year, which is still a small percentage of general food poisoning cases reported. The media (sorry for the generalization) does way to much sensational crap from the local news to the international giants. “Dozen’s of people die, stayed tuned after the break and we’ll tell you where.”

Posted by John Doe | Report as abusive

We shall see in the next few weeks how the situation will develop. For the moment, I am frankly disappointed with the way a number of big media-houses decided to cover the facts. I did follows the news in the major Italian newspapers on the web. The most inappropriate title did belong to Repubblica, a supposedly well-respected venue. On Saturday 25th, they wrote “E’ pandemia”, which translate literary in “It’s pandemic”. As a matter of fact, the phone lines of the Italian Ministry of Health have been flooded with calls from people with flu-like symptoms, including soar throat, or people concerned with the safety of eating pork meat, something which has been declared to be safe over and over again. The situation is certainly serious, but the media must behave intelligently, because the damage of wrong information can be huge. Information should inform and, in such a delicate moment, it must not be crafted with the sole purpose of selling.

I don’t envy any reporter or media producer right now; they are in a no-win situation. If this flu turns out to be nothing, they’ll be blamed for hyping. If it turns out to be a repeat of 1918, they’ll be blamed for not warning us sufficiently.

The truth is, we’re due for a pandemic according to 90 years of research on flu cycles. It’s going to happen. We’re all responsible for getting the facts, taking reasonable steps to prepare and then keeping ourselves informed as situations develop. I appreciate the media doing what they can to help us, but ultimately I have to take responsibility for my family and myself.

Whats important is the IF, if the swine flu will change and become a more aggressive against our immune systems.

Posted by Kuta | Report as abusive

From a mathematical standpoint it certainly seems to behave like an epidemic. From a historical standpoint, we are overdue for an epidemic. Actually we are somewhat overdue for largescale extinction in species. It happens routinely. Regardless of how the story ends, at least we will not have to wait long for the outcome. My philosophy in this situation is, if I am going to go, I might aswell eat whatever I want. So that is what I am doing.

Posted by Don | Report as abusive

Speaking of causing panic, Reuters is not innocent either.
This article states 149 dead. (published by Reuters)
http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticN ews/idUSTRE53R5OF20090428
This article states 7 dead …large difference!
http://www.reuters.com/article/asiaCrisi s/idUSLS627574
Does Reuters have an Editor or is it free-lance and open to the public.

Posted by Bryan | Report as abusive

Thanks Sharon. The Hype has really been irritating me. The only positive point is that headlines seem to have temporarily stopped switching four times a day between ‘slight global recovery’ and ‘deepening global recession’. I was getting dizzy!

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

I detect a bit of racism or elitism from those who claim that since the only deaths were in Mexico, then Americans or Europeans have nothing to fear. Do you think you are genetically superior to Mexicans? What makes you think this swine flu can’t kill you? Don’t let bravado fool you. This flu is serious. You don’t have immunity to it so gather as much information as you can and thank the news media that keeps us informed.

Posted by Greg | Report as abusive

There is nothing to fear but fear itself… so cease the day! just be sure to wash your hands and cover your cough please.

Posted by thinkdrink | Report as abusive

last night – mainstream tv australia – swine flu “highly likely” to become a pandemic and “kill millions of people” the fear mongering is unbelievable. “deadly swine flu virus sweeps the world” but no one outside mexico has died,

Posted by ausmoron | Report as abusive

The first comment is right – bravo DEAN WRIGHT!! A glimmer of responsibility and intelligence afloat in a cesspool of media superlatives and hysteria. NOT ONE PERSON in ANY country with a real health care system has died from this flu. Stick to the actual facts as you promise Mr. Wright, and you will be working for the most professional media outlet on the planet. In comparison, the verbal sewage coming out of CNN is beyond belief. As another blogger noted — the outrageous speculation in the media can reasonably be viewed as an act of terrorism on the uninformed population.

Posted by RJ Roland | Report as abusive

The concern with this is the high rate at which this is spreading. People keep saying that over 200,000 people are hospitalized in the U.S. per year with the flu, but keep in mind that this has all been taking place within the past couple of WEEKS. Flu pandemics grow very fast and change a lot, and this is a virus we have no vaccine for and know very little about. That’s why people are taking notice.

Posted by clay | Report as abusive

It is very unreasonable and aggravating that our media is hyping such a small threat. If 7 deaths happened, and they consider this an outbreak, then the hundreds of shootings in Harlem that kill thousands a year must be epidemic and we should all wear bulletproof vests, as their is no vaccine protecting from bullets. The day we have to walk around in blue masks is going to be a day when pigs fly, and that is not a pun. I’m dead serious. I find it laughable and quite amusing that they go to such extremes to scare people in coughing up their money. If anything is an epidermic, it’s the amount of stinkbugs flying around. I killed 6 today…and a seventh one was in the window, but I let it live to show my superiority lol.

Posted by Zack | Report as abusive

Trust no-one.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

The SARS virus had a relatively low infection rate; untreated and without quarantine, each affected person would transmit the virus to three others. The influenza virus is airborne and highly infectious; each infected person will transmit the virus to hundreds of others. Comparison between influenza and SARS has little validity.

The article mentions lack of penicillin and inefficient communication to explain high mortality during the 1917 flu pandemic. Antibiotics affect bacteria, not viruses. Antiviral medication has very little, if any, effect and its supply is limited. Today’s improved communication may be helpful for news reporting, but increased travel also increases speed of dissemination of a highly infectious airborne virus.

The seasonal flu virus slowly mutates, little by little, so a person who fell ill one year is likely to have acquired immunity to next year’s virus strain. The seasonal flu therefore only infects 5% of the population per year. The swine flu is a new strain, and therefore acquired immunity does not exist. Infection rates will thus be higher, possibly 40% or more (Spanish flu= 40%). Even if this new virus has a mortality rate as low as the seasonal flu (0.1%), the total number of fatalities will thus be much higher. Swine flu may have a higher mortality rate, between 2% and 7%.

Posted by Bart P | Report as abusive

Here I am commenting at a media site, about the media capitalizing on crisis.

Is there a way to strike a balance between delivering facts during a crisis, and delivering entertainment on the crisis?

I get very nervous when I think a company has found a way to capitalize on something nasty. Something tells me that if the MSM showed everything that was happening in Iraq, maybe the level of sponsorship would have declined. I’m not sure FOX news showed a single dead child in Iraq, yet we know scores and scores of children were killed.

How far would the media go? Would FOX send people to Mexico with instructions go inside a hospital and get coughed on real well, and then fly back to do man-on-the-street interviews in Times Square?

Posted by K Ackermann | Report as abusive

The US has 40 confirmed infections in a population of 303 million people. Do those odds or statistics qualify it as a pandemic? It’s a flu, not the bird flu, just a flu. Stay home, get rest, lots of fluids, and it’s over in a couple weeks. Provide the Tamiflu for the immuno-compromised, help the young and elderly, and let the rest of us deal with it. Our economy cannot face another crisis where consumers will retreat to their homes in fear of grocery stores, fast-food chains, malls and theaters.

Posted by jjames | Report as abusive

When Pigs Fly, Swine Flu

Posted by Ward James | Report as abusive

Check out this website http://www.swine-flu-tracker.com/ that tracks the spread of swine flu, it really puts things in perspective.

Posted by viverass | Report as abusive

The media, in this situation is helping actually. Without them we would not know what is happening in Mexico, ground zero. Being in the dark with an outbreak would be the scariest situation thinkable. Neverhteless the media has to be careful not to panic the public, keeping their broadcasts informative and factual. I do give them credit though, on the news last night I saw an American reporter in Mexico City. I dont know wether he is being brave or stupid. Personally I think he is just crazy.

Posted by Rob | Report as abusive

The online Times of London continued to carry the inflammatory and unsubstantiated headline, “”Americans told to wear masks as swine flu spreads round globe,” despite the fact that American readers pointed out the fallacy of that statement. The headline continued to run even after I (and I’m sure others) challenged the editor to name the paper’s sources on the statement.
As a former journalist, I’m shocked and saddened at how the media has fed panic over this situation.

Posted by Wendy | Report as abusive

Toddlers in Mexico get this flu and survive. A toddler in the US gets the flu and dies. Maybe the difference is how the US medical system treats the flu?? I don’t know how the US toddler was treated, but maybe it’s better to not give too much Tylenol and allow the fever to run its course. Fever has been shown to have a protective effect.

Posted by marisa | Report as abusive

It seems ironic that as soon as an investigation into the Mexican drug trade had begun, this sudden swine flu epidemic started. Flu season was months ago. This is one of those things that make you go hmmmmm! They know that anyone, investigator or not wouldn’t dare travel over to Mexico now! Think about it!

Posted by SC Sista | Report as abusive

It’s important for people not to panic. We wouldn’t want the market-manipulators working for the Federal government to lose on their positions.

Posted by Don | Report as abusive

This is something I found that the media has not mentioned. It appears that there was a case of Novel H1N1 flu in California as early as March 30.

Here is the link:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/nuccore  /FJ966955

The patient was 9 and Female in California and the collection date was March 30, 2009. I’m not a health care professional so I am not sure exactly what everything on this report means but the date to me is significant. If you can’t see the link go to ncbi.nlm.gov forward slash nuccore forward slash FJ966955.

Can anyone tell us why we didn’t hear about this case in the media reports? What does this report mean? Any comments would be helpful.

Posted by bob | Report as abusive

As a Mexican Citizen and resident, I can´t help to be offended by the way that some media is handling the information that we have so far, including local mexican media, sure in times like these media companies feed off sensationalism and biased reporting but it gets to a point where it stops being information and it starts being some sort of morbid gossip, people here in mexico are scared, but they are living they´re lives normally, we have to keep working, paying our bills, making deposits in banks etc. people die all the time but we don´t seem to panic about it, it just seems to me that we can´t let this thing (serious as it is) affect every part of our lives, and surely everybody has better things to do than to go calling this “the mexican flu”.
People: take care, lots of vitamin c, rest, plenty of fluids you know the drill, but don´t panic

Posted by Jose Luis | Report as abusive

What I worry about with the swine flu is that many people may become infected when others are going through the prodromal phase of the infection. If you are unfamiliar with this term, the prodromal phase is when you experience vague, non-specific symptoms like fatigue and malaise. People who are now infected may be exposing others without knowing they are ill and contagious. In fact, the illness is most contagious during the prodromal phase. While it is very important to do the hand washing thing, it must be emphasized that this flu is primarily transmitted via air droplets containing viral particles.
Anyone who is at risk (the elderly, the very young, and those who have compromised immune systems for whatever reason) should be extremely careful when in public, even going to the extreme of wearing the face mask.

Posted by Linda Buzzetti | Report as abusive

There is a difference between panic and alarm. It is necessary to become alarmed at this outbreak so we are motivated to take prudent actions. If everyone takes every precaution they can, there should be no reason why this outbreak can’t be gotten under control. Most people who become infected will probably be able to endure the course of this illness without having to be hospitalized. However, I worry about those who are fragile who may contract very severe cases. It’s important to prevent their exposure.

Posted by Linda | Report as abusive

The CANADIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (CMA) made a rather stark and dismal prediction in August of 2008. And, the strange thing is; there were no images of PERSONS, constantly appearing on the Main Stream Media (MSM) news papers, websites, and of course in High Definition on digital TVs wearing surgical or chemical masks (respirators). The World Health Organization (WHO) had nothing much to say about this drastic prediction which the CMA had made. The CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL & PREVENTION (CDC) in the UNITED STATES, also did not appear too concerned, especially given their close proximity to the geographic landmass known as Canada. The basis for my assumption, leading me to believe that neither of these CORPORATE organizations had attached much or any concern, actually became somewhat obvious. By this I make reference; there was an imminent predicted demise of thousands, or perhaps hundreds of thousands of human beings, but yet, it was business as usual. You could have hopped on a jet plane and fly to Mexico, drive across the North American borders to do some shopping, no problemo…no alert measures went into effect, i.e., like the WHO is doing now, e.g. “Alert 5″ or, as the UNITED STATES HOMELAND SECURITY might soon do, with their trendy color system, e.g. “Amber Alert.” Well, I’ve rambled on long enough now, so I’ll come to my point: In August 2008, the CMA claimed that up to 21,000 Canadians will die this year (2008), due to air pollution, and with 3,000 of those deaths due to short-term exposure to smog. I don’t know of any pharmaceutical research CORPORATIONS that are currently trying to develop a VACCINE for air pollution or SMOG. So, perhaps a flu pandemic might actually be a good thing…being locked down in our homes, and or detained in FEMA detention camps, will definitely be pay back to the industry, which ultimately must bear the responsibility for the deaths of 21,000 human beings. Last reported, Mexico was losing $53 million dollars per day, because of the flu.

Posted by Christopher-Peter: Maingot | Report as abusive

Great to read a balance. I am in Mexico right now, been here some time. I am shocked at the BS media hype coming out in my country back home … causing a panic.

The main misleading statement is saying there are 150 dead without backing this up with the facts.

The facts are only eight people have been officially confirmed deaths from the virus and these cases my not be directly from the virus.

They also forget to mention the thousands who die of the flu and complications each year. e.g. about 100 a day in the USA alone.

I think it is shameful they way the media is hypering this up and misleading the public. And the terrible impact on the country of Mexico. Mexico is a great place to live and retire, rated number one by the organization International living two years running.

Danny

Posted by danny | Report as abusive

This is an alarm that world has to wake up. This is an obvious that world is going to loose so many billion people this year as the testimony was said by so many christian server begining of this year. well we are not that far before the government can step in and stop the big tragedy

As serious as a pandemic can be, the Spanish Flu of the early 20th century is a prime example, things can get out of hand. Remember that swine flu has been with us before. In 1976 it was detected on a US military base. There seems to have been some deaths, and then the subsequent over reaction in vaccinating millions of Americans. The vaccine proved to be more deadly (many people got serious, long lasting side effects) than the virus itself.

That being said, it would be a mistake to try to label this “The Mexican Flu” just as it is misleading to name the 1918 pandemic “The Spanish Flu” as it actually originated in the US. No one is sure where the new N1H1 strain originated, but it has been here before, and some think that this might have even been the very same virus from 1918.

Medicine has come a long way, in 1918 there weren’t even antibiotics readily available. As to why many people are dying in Mexico City, (150 out of 22 million is a strange thing to call many) it is the most populated city in the world with high poverty (difficult to get treatment if you have no insurance or money). I also read that many in Mexico are having a difficult time getting the two viral drugs available to combat N1H1.

Bottom line. Relax, be extra cautious and clean, and make sure you eat well. God Bless

Posted by Marco | Report as abusive

A nice lttle site to save you surfing the web about swine flu. seems to have all the main links and info you would need http://www.swine-flu-information-site.co m/

Posted by Rod | Report as abusive

It’s hype – just like the bird flu scare a few years ago. every media outlet will exaggerate in order to secure more audience for ad sales, and every government will exaggerate to have a handy excuse to assume ‘special powers’ – like they just did in Mexico. At this rate, I imagine the TSA here in the States will be taking throat cultures before they let you board a plane.

Take disease outbreaks seriously – sure. You wouldn’t want to be the government that did nothing until it was too late. But to scare half my neighbors into stocking up on surgical masks and half the third world into slaughtering all their pigs? In a week, I expect to hear about the sanitation crisis resulting from all those carcasses).

There is a middle ground between blind panic and sleepy complacency. We used to be able to count on the news to help us find it.

Posted by DrMugatu | Report as abusive

I think it’s an outrage the hype this story is getting. The news media just doesn’t have enough to say to be on air 24/7. This is more irresponsible than their usual panic though. Schools have closed, the stock market has been affected – people are so frightened. And, for what – So far, one person has died of this strain of flu – whereas, in a normal outbreak, thousands die routinely from flu.

I live in Mexico, close to the Belizean border. It astounds me how everyone has over reacted to this. I know it could be serious, and I don’t want to minimize any possible danger but it is frightening to see an entire country completely shut down. My workers are frightened and the information coming from all countries is so confusing. If you go to the CDC and WHO websites and get real information, it is far less serious than is being hyped. I’m a citizen of the US but I’m ashamed at the misinformation and superiority that I feel coming from my own country. I think Mexico has done a brave thing in shutting down the country. Would any other country do this with 20 confirmed deaths? I don’t think so. Someone out there owes Mexico some Kudos.

Has anyone found out if the HIN1 strain in Mexico is fatal or is it that the patients were not given the adequate antiviral medication on time? Example a healthy 29 yrs Mexican died after 9 days . However all the cases outside Mexico have recovered ( except for the Mexican baby in Taxes). Is this a case of mistreatment or the strain being more virulent and deadly?

Posted by shan | Report as abusive

I think this article needs to be circulated around Reuters. When I first entered the site here, the top story was “Mild Pandemic or Millions Dead?” Phrases like “millions dead” may grab attention, but they’re exactly the kind of sensationalism Mr. Wright’s article was warning against.

“Which common household product can cause sudden death in toddlers? Tune in at 11:00pm for this and more!”

Posted by Pamela | Report as abusive

The Hype has really been irritating me. The only positive point is that headlines seem to have temporarily stopped switching eight times a day between ’slight global recovery’ and ‘deepening global meltdown’. I was getting dizzy!

The best thing about the swine flu craze is the short-selling potential of all these stocks that will soon deflate whenever the flu fears subside or their vaccines prove impractical. This is the best list I\’ve found of these overhyped swine stocks http://bit.ly/EsQhz

Posted by Peter Erskine | Report as abusive

More recent news alludes to short comings with the detection capabilities and, reporting efficacy of the WHO and the CDC. This was in direct reference to the inefficient detection and timely dissemination of information, regarding the current emerging Swine Flu pandemic…the World Health Organization along with the CENTERS for DISEASE CONTROL & PREVENTION (CDC) has paled in comparison to a two year old Seattle, Washington based company with just 50 employees – VERATECT CORPORATION. They alerted the public to a growing number of swine flu cases, weeks before the CDC and the WHO did.

VERATECT accomplishes their daily business activities, via the use of computer algorithms, and human analysts, to monitor online and off-line sources, for hints of disease outbreaks, and worldwide civil unrest.

Perhaps the CDC, the WHO, HHS, DHS, NSA, CSIS, RCMP and, even MI5, could learn a thing or two from this “start up company from Seattle.” They could perhaps partner with them, or other such CORPORATIONS, in an effort to satisfy the needs of certain public and private institutions.

Clients of these geek computer algorithms, and human analysis, were actually forewarned of the potentially severe outbreak of Swine Flu, and much sooner than the general public was too, apparently.

This new and growing business, which others are into as well, garners its source materials from data being captured from the likes of; bloggers, on-line chatters, twitters, news media sources, and of course, government websites. There is really nothing stopping the CDC, the WHO, et. al., from using this available data to enhance the speed at which they respond to outbreaks of Swine Flu, H5N1, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) etc.

With the likes of this high tech, alerting technology, the possibilities will now be limitless. Had this method of prediction been available many years ago, the incidences of fatally injurious accidents to unsuspecting citizens, might have been minimized. In particular, the Swine Flu vaccination program of the 1970s, which was responsible for horrendous side-effects such as, paralysis and death, comes to mind. Not to mention the on-going controversy of the Polio vaccines, especially with the recent negative publicity from Nigeria, and other third world countries.

It has been stated; some of the obvious and important benefits of this intelligence gathering science, apart from possibly saving human life…will better manage the financial reporting, and insurance coverage…mitigating potential class action lawsuits due to negligence…especially important in the UNITED KINGDOM, where the government recently crafted the CORPORATE Manslaughter, and CORPORATE Homicide ACTs.

With this cutting edge…into the future knowledge, 21,000 Canadians might have had sooner awareness that they would die in 2008 from air pollution and smog…Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome?

WORLD VISION INCORPORATED pays good money for this unique style of pre emptive intelligence. It is said, that they can actually use the alerting technology to determine where contaminated drinking water might exists, on this planet.

The leader of the CDC’s international swine flu team thinks this type of technology is somewhat useful and, sensitive to emerging threats. However, Dr. Scott Dowell also thinks “it generates a lot of noise.”

On the subject of noise or sound, the CORPORATION which truly possessed the widest vision capabilities; was PANASONIC. More than two months ago now, and before any inkling of Swine Flu (A-H1N1), this company came up with the perplexing plan; repatriate the families of overseas employees, out of fears of an imminent flu pandemic.

A PANASONIC spokesperson said; employees will stay put, but families of those working in China, Asia (excluding Singapore), the Middle East, Africa, Russia and South America are to return to Japan.

So perplexing was this decision, that it triggered a reaction from WHO spokesperson, Gregory Hartl: “There’s really no reason for anyone to all of a sudden take such actions, because today is no different from yesterday.”
Hartl of the WHO said; “there is no justification for this decision, particularly from a public health perspective. There is no sense that the risk has risen, and we are definitely still in Phase 3.”

Phase 6 = Condition Pandemic.

Posted by Christopher-Peter: Maingot | Report as abusive

It’s all hype to focus attention elsewhere away from what our elected officials are doing.

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

Re: Posted by Jason-May 1st, 2009 – 4:59 pm GMT – I agree with you: We all need to keep focused on what our elected OFFICALS are doing. And, perhaps equally, if not more important jason; some of the things which they have, already done.

Posted by Christopher-Peter: Maingot | Report as abusive

We must unite to Resistance to virus

Posted by china | Report as abusive

Much agreed Christopher. Much agreed.

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

The hype seems to be an effective way of distracting people from the government’s antics and also to keep our minds off the economy crisis. I don’t know for sure how big this swine flu epidemic will get but at the moment, I think it’s all hype.

Posted by Caris | Report as abusive

So today Mexico reports that the worst of the swine flu is over; and it is no worse than a regular flu. How much money was spent on this? Did Obama not asked for a billion dollars, and asked companies to give as much time as the employees asked? How much did this cost to airlines, travel agencies? How much did this cost to the Mexican and world economy?
I think the news media need to do some real soul searching. Hype sells but it will eventually backfire.

Posted by C Garza | Report as abusive

I have a consipiracy theory, this could have been made to create terror among humanity. some makers of medicine & vaccine and genius in developing diseases may have created the H1N1 for profit & commercial purpose.

Posted by Raul B Villarama Jr. | Report as abusive

Dean, do you read all these comments?
AZJ

Posted by Arlene Jacobson | Report as abusive

Note to AZJ:
Yes, I make it a point to read all comments on the blog. I like for the discussion to be largely among readers, since I’ve already had my say–and at some length.

However, when appropriate I will wade back in to the debate.

Thanks for reading!

Posted by Dean Wright | Report as abusive

Hey Raul from May 4th, 2009 – Re: I have a conspiracy theory. I can surely agree with your written expression, but only positively on one point – It is a conspiracy. And, these situations are no longer theories. YouTube this: Luke Rudkowski – ‘U.S. media doesn’t want truth’. Do the research.

Posted by Christopher-Peter: Maingot | Report as abusive

I agree with everyone else, it is hype.

Posted by Patricia | Report as abusive

Just imagine how many people caught TB or AIDS everyday by global statistics and WHO should have declared world pandemic for every known communicatable disease, you will feel much better for a curable flu.

Posted by Greene | Report as abusive