About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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Flu coverage over the top?

A reader, Tim Alsfeld of Spotsylvania, asked this morning for a bit more sanity in the coverage of the swine flu outbreak. He feels that it’s been blown way out of proportion.

“You probably have a better chance of winning the lottery than you do of getting swine flu,” he said.

He points out:

* This appears to be a mild flu. Most of those infected do not require hospitalization.

 (As of April 28, there were five hospitalized cases, three in California and two in Texas, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were 64 cases confirmed that day. Today there are 91 confirmed cases.)

 * He also points out that this new version of the swine flu has killed one person in the U.S., compared to the 36,000 who die each year from the seasonal flu. That one person, a child in Texas, was infected in Mexico and then came to the U.S., he said.

 (The Texas Department of State Health Services reported April 29 that the fatality was a 22-month-old boy from Mexico City who died this week in a Houston-area hospital. The boy, who had several underlying health problems, had traveled with his family to visit relatives in Texas. The boy developed a fever on April 8 followed by other influenza-like symptoms. He was admitted to a Brownsville hospital a few days later, and the next day was transferred to a Houston-area hospital.)

I’ll let Dr. Richard E. Besser,  acting director of disease control and prevention at the CDC, offer a possible explanation for the national reaction. On April 28, he told a press briefing:

 "We are dealing with a new strain of influenza.  We’re very concerned.  And because of that, we’re acting very aggressively.  With a new infectious agent, you don’t sit back and wait and hope for the best.  You take bold steps, and then you pull back if you need to." 

The Texas Department of State Health Services press release on the swine flu death is HERE.

The latest from the CDC is HERE.


  • spooncroon

    Maybe it is overhyped, but if the media downplayed this and then it did become a big problem, you can bet the very critics condemning the hype now would be furious that the media had let this sneak up on them. Personally, I’d rather have the information, reported neutrally (as it has been, for the most part), and make my own decisions about how to react.