The Great Debate

Did Twitter make flu fears viral?

twitter1 Now that the panic over the H1N1 flu strain has somewhat subsided, experts are contemplating what role Twitter played in helping the virus, commonly known as swine flu, go viral.

The H1N1 virus has caused around 6,500 infections in 33 countries and 65 people have died so far, according to the World Health Organization. Common seasonal flu kills up to 500,000 people a year worldwide.

So did Twitter put the media before the message and escalate anxieties by propagating rumors of biological attack and pork production infection?

Or did the Twittersphere prove itself to be the first choice in information for the wired era?

Tell us what you think.

A vaccine needed for bad statistics

ericauchard1- Eric Auchard is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

If you look no further than the latest headlines, you might think a worldwide flu pandemic was already underway with a very real threat to millions of lives.

While there are many unanswered questions early on in the outbreak of flu from Mexico, it is crucial to remember that the number of deaths and reported infections remain small — even if its spread across the globe has proved worryingly rapid.

While the infected need access to medical care and anti-viral drugs, the rest of the world needs an inoculation against scary statistics and misinformation.

Not what the economy’s doctor ordered

James Saft Great Debate – James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Besides being a human tragedy, a deadly pandemic is, quite literally, the last thing a global economy suffering a huge drop off in trade and activity needs.

To be very clear, we’ve no idea how severe or widespread the evolving outbreak of a new form of swine flu will be and indications that it seems to be becoming milder as it travels from Mexico are reassuring.

from For the Record:

Flu outbreak: Walking the line between hyping and helping

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!).”