Archive for the ‘Media reporting’ Category
Ah, the heady drama of last fall. H1N1 was a steady source of worry, creating the Worried Well and sparking a fevered drive to stock up on vaccine. In October CBS interviewed Dr. Troyen Brennan, the Chief Medical Officer of CVS, the drug store chain.
Asked if there will be enough H1N1 vaccine to go around, Brennan said, “We do believe there will be enough. The government’s been very careful in terms of the amount of H1N1 it’s ordered and that’s coming online right now.”
And so millions of Americans queued up for a Swine Flu shot, some at CVS, along with a seasonal flu shot. Boy, was there ever enough of the H1N1 vaccine. Too much for Europe, where some claim that Swine Flu was a fake epidemic. From NPR, “Governments all across Europe are canceling orders of swine flu vaccine as frantically as they were clamoring for it a few month ago.” Alas, we’re more determined to be protected in the US.
The government is thinking about how much more swine flu vaccine to order up and pay for. But Health and Human Services spokesman Bill Hall says any decision to scale back vaccine orders is “weeks away.” Let’s take stock. Last spring the US government signed contracts for $1.5 billion worth of vaccine against the novel H1N1 virus–251 million doses. So far, 55 percent of that amount has been shipped, and something like 60 million Americans have been vaccinated. That leaves 45 percent of the contracted-for vaccine yet to be delivered. That’s 115 million doses, worth about $675 million.
Okay, it’s under a billion dollars, so it won’t even show up in the US budget.
But the cost of stress-induced concern about health, missed work time to vaccinate, isolation of the populace that didn’t want to risk being in this epidemic: much greater. There’s a payoff for coverage as breathless and shallow as the CBS Early Show stuff, thank goodness. We’re being innoculated from the sudden panic of virus outbreaks. Read the rest of this entry »
Journalist David McCandless, a London-based author, writer and designer, has a superior summary of everything which a Swine Flu vaccine can do, based on a wide variety of public sources. Best of all, it’s presented in illustrated format.
One major surprise to me is the amount of mercury (thimerosal) that’s inserted into flu shots. A can of tuna has about twice as much mercury as any thimerosal you will find in an injection. The nasal application of the H1N1 vaccine contains zero micrograms of mercury. But getting vaccinated with an inhaled formula isn’t recommended for anyone over 50. This is the same age group that has only a 4 percent chance of contracting this kind of influenza. The data so far also indicates that this flu is being contracted mostly by people under 25. He also concludes that the chances of dying of the current vaccine are more than 1 in a million.
McCandless’s Swine Flu data is at informationisbeautiful.net, along with dozens of other interesting presentations.
A weekend report from ABC News explores the idea that the Swine Flu panic may be ebbing. Now that didn’t take long.
As part of its insights, the TV network took note of the Austin children’s hospital which pitched tents in the parking lot to vaccinate kids back in September. The tents are gone, ABC finally noticed. (The Dell Children’s Hospital here in my hometown took the tents down more than six weeks ago, but a reporter has to call around to find out anything. Apparently the local affiliate KVUE’s stories didn’t float up to the mothership.)
My friend Tom Coefield, who works as a planner for rival Columbia Healthcare St. David’s hospital, took note of the tents too. He was impressed by how thoughtful the tactic seemed. The hospital had no good reason for erecting the easy-to-spot tents, at least not public health-related. “But it showed everyone how much they cared,” Tom said with a wink.
Comments on the ABC TV web site assert that perhaps the recent alarm about Swine Flu was related to winning some stimulus monies for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Web site comments are way down the ladder on the reliable source chain, of course. And the H1N1 virus hasn’t departed our populace. But Tom says the test for determining if your flu is Swine is only accurate about 30 percent of the time. So much for the accuracy of reports about how many people have contracted it. Now come reports that H1N1 is mutating. Good news? That flu shot you got for H1N1 will be somewhat useful in creating immunity if you encounter a mutated live virus in the air, somewhere.
A story appeared on the NPR Web site this morning that reports pigs in Iowa might have caught H1N1 from schoolchildren. That’s right, pigs might have caught swine flu from people.
But the reporting is so bad, it’s as if some journalist looked up and saw the clock and thought, “Holy crap. I gotta file my daily swine flu story.” So we get the following:
Pigs in Minnesota may have tested positive for the H1N1 virus… officials cautioned that further tests are needed to confirm that the pigs have been infected with H1N1. The pigs did not exhibit signs of sickness and may have been infected by a group of children with the virus, they said. Officials said a group of children staying at dormitory near the Minnesota State Fair contracted the H1N1 virus at the same time that samples were taken from the pigs. However, officials said no direct link between the pigs and the outbreak among the children has been made.
This is just bad journalism. No test results, just a group of researchers from Iowa and Minnesota Universities “documenting instances of influenza viruses where humans and pigs regularly interact, such as state fairs.”
You can already guess who’s most worried about this. America’s pig farmers, with one more rumor to grind down their sales of pork products. This is how rumors grow: from stories about children staying in a “nearby” dorm who “might have” infected pigs. But we don’t know anything for certain until the test results come back from from the apparently-healthy pigs.
So instead of worrying about the children, let’s blame it on the children. Or their parents. Gad, what half-baked work passes for news now. The headline on the NPR site is “H1N1 Flu Claiming a Rising Toll.” 86 dead so far, twice the number in a usual year. This news influences the spread of the flu; worry and dread reduce the immunity in your body. What might be healthier: reading an article in the Atlantic Monthly that will have you questioning every “flu killed that child” statistic used in such poor reporting.