Sensationalist Accounts of Outbreaks are Dangerous

H1N1 Influenza Virus
H1N1 Influenza Virus Particles

Sensationalist accounts of sudden outbreaks, unusual examples of individual deaths and exaggerated cases of celebrities who become ill dominate health headlines.

As a result, the public may ignore or disregard vital warnings that may seem relatively mundane, such as steps to avoid the spread of seasonal influenza, while becoming distracted by a relatively small number of extreme but generally unrepresentative cases.

While illnesses, ranging from the rare to fairly common, claim lives every day, we must understand these ailments in context. The media’s coverage of disease ought to be focused on what Americans can do to prevent the spread of communicable conditions, beginning each year with the flu. An emphasis on preventive measures, not the most tragic cases, will better help to contain any outbreaks, possibly decrease the number of deaths and certainly reinforce the public’s trust in expert guidance.

Read the full story by E. Thomas Ewing at the Washington Post

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