It’s easy to make sport of FWISD and May Fair’s recent closings as overreactions to swine flu hysteria, as I did in an earlier post. After taking an unscientific weekend spin through CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC’s coverage of this new flu pandemic, though, I’m shocked that U.S. soldiers haven’t shuffled everyone with the sniffles into large quarantine cages.
I’m not talking strictly about TV panic-stirring here — media hyperbole is not a new phenomenon. More alarming was the wasp storm of inaccurate, incomplete, contradictory, or just plain false info that was pouring out of these cable stations. I heard that the swine flu was so far proving to be a mild disease in the U.S., so we can relax a little. Then I heard that CDC officials were alarmed at U.S. swine flu cases because a large number of the hospitalized were otherwise healthy adults. I heard Tamiflu and other traditional treatments worked, and then I heard that no, they didn’t. Mexico City’s situation was so severe among infected adults because the victims waited too late to go to the doctor with their symptoms. Wrong! (maybe), because then I heard that deaths would not have been prevented by earlier physician intervention.
My point is – at a time when the cable networks were being relied upon as methodical purveyors of coherent public health info, they were instead broadcasting unconfirmed facts and speculation. That’s the nature of the 24/7 cable news beast, I suppose. But if, God forbid, Americans ever started dying rapidly from a new communicable strain, this careless, hectic approach to delivering the news could create scary additional problems.