pandemic paper final

pandemic paper final - Jason Meer Biology 46 Media Madness...

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Jason Meer Biology 46 Media Madness and Emerging Diseases Threat of Avian Flu, Ebola Pandemics Overestimated When jovial celebrators brought in the Year of the Pig on February 18, little was probably on their minds besides the promises of a new year. If other thoughts were commonly surfacing, it’s almost certain that no one was considering the potential global health impact of the event. That is, except for one sensational Washington Post writer named Donald McNeil, Jr., who had written three days earlier that “New Year's celebrations in China and Vietnam have become associated with flu outbreaks because so much poultry for family feasts is on the move” (McNeil, Jr., 2007). McNeil’s comments might not have seemed so sensational had he not juxtaposed that thought with the idea that a global flu pandemic “could begin at any time” (McNeil, Jr., 2007). Members of the media like McNeil have become enamored of writing about flashy emerging diseases like avian flu and Ebola using doomsday rhetoric because there is a real risk of the development of a global pandemic for both diseases. It is clear, however, that recent media coverage of the two diseases has overstated such risks, contrasting realistic reporting regarding a possible HIV/AIDS pandemic. Since the height of its coverage in 2004 and 2005, avian flu has continually been hailed as on the brink of pandemic by the news media. In reality, the lack of an efficient strain for person-to-person transmission makes such developments unlikely at present. In commenting on media coverage of avian flu, Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota , said, “I've gotten at least 10 media calls in the last few months asking me to deliver the death sentence for avian flu” (McNeil, Jr. 2007). Scientists like Osterholm are reluctant to do
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so, even though they recognize the inevitability of another global flu pandemic at some point (Reissman et al., 2006). This is due to the fact that despite concerns that the H5N1 virus responsible for avian flu is mutating, no strains have emerged that can be considered serious threats for person-to-person transmission (Reissman et al., 2006). As of yet, most of the deaths have occurred in birds, and up to 80 percent of transmissions to humans can be definitively linked to contact with sick poultry, according to an Indonesian study (McNeil, Jr., 2007).
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