Eight Tips for Surviving Swine Flu Media Coverage

The broadcast news media is not in the optimism business—we know this. PANIC! is what pulls in viewers and racks up page counts. With each new confirmed diagnosis of H1N1 influenza A someplace on the planet, Internet news outlets get to slap an “Updated” note on their landing pages and cable news programs can place more capital letters in their news ticker.

Media consumers caught up in the swine flu doomsday frenzy may have noticed how the victim list ballooned dramatically and then suddenly divided into multiple lists: confirmed deaths, suspected infections, alleged confirmations, and confirmed allegations. One Internet story I read posted different numbers in the headline than in the lead paragraph. Thanks to the Egyptian government’s knee-jerk slaughter program, there’s probably even a tracker someplace for unjust pig killings.

Considering that one CDC estimate put the average number of U.S. influenza-related deaths at 36,000 each year, you may wonder why this is such a crisis. Certainly the potential for global disaster is there, but the trauma inflicted on the populace seems to have exceeded the level of “informed caution.”

Here are some tips to help you avoid undue alarm, even in the face of cheerful news-show hosts starting your day with dire warnings of “that deadly superbug sweeping the globe.”

  • Wash up your dishes, laundry, car, even yourself, instead of sitting glued to your TV or computer waiting for death toll updates.
  • Sanitize your shopping cart handle at the grocery store when purchasing pork products, which won’t give you the flu.
  • Don’t touch that sensationalist flashing “breaking news” link on your browser toolbar.
  • Thin the crowd at the doctor’s office by only scheduling a visit if you’re actually feeling ill.
  • Keep your perspective: currently, you’re more likely to be killed in a car accident (or even a lightning strike) than by this strain of swine flu.
  • Don’t share bad statistics with your friends and coworkers.
  • Be careful whom you visit—sites belonging to the World Health Organization and CDC emphasize useful facts instead of drama.
  • Educate the kids about common-sense health habits without making it sound like doomsday is upon us.

Looking for real tip lists? Try these:
Video tips from The Boston Channel.

Flu facts from Fox.

Ian Smith blogs for Gemstone Media, located in Boise, Idaho.

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