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August 27, 2009 - Kylie Saari
I have been hearing a lot of about the upcoming H1N1 outbreak being hyped by the big news agencies and have a split mind about it. On one hand, new illnesses are never good news, and as one of my children was nearly killed by influenza the one and only year I did not go out and seek the flu shot, I am well aware of its dangers. But instead of invoking panic in the general public and threaten death to the masses, how about listening to that quiet undertone in every article written about the topic. To begin, let me tell you how news stories are usually written. The style is called a pyramid, and rightly so. The biggest, newsiest, "most important" information goes on top, followed in descending order the rest of the news. By the end of the story, the reporter is giving historical context or side information, etc. This is so editors can easily chop off a story so it fits a page without sacrificing the important stuff, and if a reader gets bored midway, he or she gets the gist. What that means for H1N1, which I learned never to called the swine flu through numerous pork industry interviews, is that information like "90,000 expected to die from swine flu this fall" gets top billing and in every paper, and information like, "The flu is similar in severity to other strains of influenza," and "Hand washing and covering a cough are effective in preventing the spread of the disease," may or may not be included and certainly will not be a headline item. My recommendation, be aware of the risks, and if you have asthma or other respiratory disease, take precautions as necessary. And for everyone else, for the love of all things disease-free, wash your hands.
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