When swine flew cable news was there to cover it
I apologize for yet another lengthy hiatus between postings, but I just got out of quarantining myself from H1N1. I found out about the swine flu while I was on my layover returning from my vacation in Puerto Rico and based on the amount of coverage it was getting I assumed that Outbreak had come true while I was on vacation. I momentarily considered turning around and trying to book a flight back to Puerto Rico where most of the news coverage was in Spanish so I was completely oblivious to the impending pandemic in progress.
People temporarily lost touch with reality over the swine flu for a minute. We got to see on an almost minute by minute basis how quickly a virus can spread from state to state and country to country. (Obviously not nearly as quickly as this viral email.)
Because of the panic caused at least partly by the frantic media hype, schools were closed*, people canceled vacations, and a whole population of innocent Egyptian pigs were slaughtered. Yet when put in perspective, for most people, swine flu probably only posed a minuscule risk when compared to their risks of catching any of the hundreds of other communicable diseases that no one gives us minute by minute updates on. Imagine if we got a news update every time someone was diagnosed with tuberculosis, or AIDS, or any of the many other STDs. It would be a never ending update. Constant news updates could possibly have a positive effect initially of scaring a few extra people into using condoms…but eventually everyone would probably just get desensitized.
According to the latest update there are around 2254 cases of confirmed swine flu in the US. Comparing the swine flu stats to other risks (tuberculosis (13,224), AIDS (1,106,400), and the heebie jeebies** (724,998,976) ) and we see that the risk of catching swine flu only beats out the risk of getting hit on the head by a falling anvil by a small margin. Although frequent viewing of Looney Tunes would lead us to believe that risk is significantly higher.
All joking aside I don’t mean to belittle the significance of H1N1 that much, I just get a little miffed when things get blown out of proportion due to the mixed blessing that is 24-hour news coverage.
Thankfully most of the media coverage of the swine flu has died down, so now the 24 news coverage can turn to more pressing matters like Obamas choice of condiments on his cheeseburger.
* Okay I have to admit that my concern meter went up a notch when it was reported that a kid at a school just a few miles from my employer was infected. But mostly I was hoping that my employer would overreact and give us a week off work (I mean surely someone I work with has a kid at that school).
** Beware, most people infected with the heebie jeebies have no idea they are infected