Before I begin, let me just make some things clear, I am NOT denying that swine flu presents a significant potential threat nor am I suggesting that governments and health organisations should not be taking steps to prepare for the worse case scenarios. I’m also not suggesting that taking reasonable precautions is a bad idea or that we shouldn’t feel deep sympathy for the folks who are effected or have died from this illness. All Clear? Right let’s move on.
With that cleared up, what I want to discuss is the problem I’ve noticed with some of the media reports on swine flu, namely, how the media seems to be, intentionally or unintentionally, fuelling unnecessary panic amongst the public. They are doing this by using alarmist headlines and presenting swine flu as a deadly menace that could strike anyone, anywhere in the world, at any minute, which the current evidence simply does not support.
Now, in case there was any doubt I am definitely not an expert on infectious diseases or pandemic outbreaks and as such my opinion should be taken with the requisite pinch of salt. However, the hysteria currently being whipped up by the media seems to me to be eerily familiar to the kind of mass panic that occurred a few years back with SARS and more recently with the bird flu.
It’s not that these diseases do not pose real dangers, they do. The point is that the amount of fear that reports whip up amongst the general public over these issues, especially in the Western world, was and is completely disproportionate to the actual risk of catching anything that the public have so far faced.