Swine flu Media hype?

30 April 2009

Should we be scared? The media seem quite intent on making us scared with continuous 24/7 reports on the spread of the swine flu: maps and blogs abound. A few hours ago, the WHO has raised the global epidemic threat level to five (out of six). New cases are confirmed in a number of countries, but somewhat confusingly the virus has been less deadly outside Mexico. This inexplicability doesn’t do much to reassure me. Even if something is deadly, I feel it’s better if scientists know exactly how and why it is deadly, than there being a large amount of uncertainty.

I am no biologist – and I suppose most journalists aren’t either – so I cannot claim to assess the dangers of this swine flu, but it is quite worrisome that this strain has already spread to many other countries outside Mexico and the US. As I learnt at school so many years ago, the problem may lie in this pretty dangerous flu virus mutating into something deadlier and more contagious than it already is. More people carrying the virus in more locations, to an unscientific mind like mine, would translate into more chances of mutations occurring.

As things stand at the moment, I (and many others probably) feel quite nervous. Many of us do fear and expect a pandemic: hopefully such a situation would not arise. The number of deaths confirmed as caused by this strain is not a huge number, and it is not yet out of control. If a global pandemic does not materialize, we may feel like a fool dancing to the media tune. Media may later be accused of ‘hyping’ this up. If I were a cynical conspiracy theorist, I’d say this is a diversion by the governments to take our minds off the horrible state of the economy.

I suppose I’d prefer to be a fool than dead, so with anguish in my heart, I will keep reloading the rolling coverage of the great flu pandemic of 2009, or the non-story of 2009, as it unfolds.