By Christopher Cross
It's not like the media is above latching onto a story and milking it for all its' worth, after all, the media has done this for years to increate television ratings and newspaper sales. But when it centers on issues of profound importance such as public health, where do we draw the line between good journalistic ethics and mere media hype.
Well, the answer rests in whether or not there is factual credibility in the stroy being presented and a good sign of of whether this exists is by comparing your local news to each other to see if there are significant differences in facts being represented for the same story subject matter. If there are substantial differences then it is likely that while there may be some truth existing, the majority is media hype.
In terms of the Bird Flu, the Centers For Disease Control reports that: "Because of concerns about the potential for more widespread infection in the human population, public health authorities closely monitor outbreaks of human illness associated with avian influenza. To date, human infections with avian influenza A viruses detected since 1997 have not resulted in sustained human-to-human transmission. However, because influenza A viruses have the potential to change and gain the ability to spread easily between people, monitoring for human infection and person-to-person transmission is important. (See Information about Influenza Pandemics for more information.)
Thus, the caution is not in actual sustained cases of human to human transmission of the Bird Flu but rather the ability of all viruses to mutate into a form that [might] lead to transmission between people, emphasis on the word [might] because it is not automatically guaranteed that once a virus or a bacteria mutates that it does so with the conscious decision to transfer from person to person.
Pretty much its' commonsense in using universial precautions such as washing your hands frequently to avoid the spread of bacteria and virus.
In the sustained cases involving Bird Flu, it has involved people who have been in very close contact with the infected Birds. Yet, what makes this issue of particular importance with the media is that it encompasses the "dooms day" or "end of the world" sci-fi principles such as existed in the movie titled "The Stand."
Every living thing has the potential of transmitting harmful bacteria and viruses to another living thing. We seem to be preoccupied with the Bird Flu merely because of the media hype, which you may have noticed has greatly subsided lately.
This is not to say that we should dismiss the Bird Flu as potentially serious [if it mutates] into a form that is transmitable among humans. It is simply to say that if we focus too much we are likely to drive ourselves into a state of paranoia that serves no substantial purpose other than to inhibit our daily functioning.
The CDC, points out in its' article that the symptoms associated with this virus include: typical influenza-like symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches) to eye infections (conjunctivitis), pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, viral pneumonia, and other severe and life-threatening complications.
I very much doubt that we will start dropping like flies anytime soon and if an outbreak does happen we need not panic as panic serves no useful purpose. Rather, be cautious in your health and apply good universial precautions to protect yourself from contracting this virus [if and when] it mutates enough to impose a serious and real danager to people.