Sunday, November 2, 2014

Influenzing the News

Viruses have been a hot topic in the news recently. Media outlets have capitalized on the fear of a contagion like situation occurring stateside, while just barely glazing over the surface of the crisis in West Africa. The torrent of Ebola articles that are flowing in at a solid rate described by the totally mathematical model: {[(# of Ebola cases stateside) x (number of Fox news fallacies reported)^(# of readers who have watched contagion in the past month)] / day}. Yet, our good friends at the New York Times have not forgotten that Filoviridae is not the only viral family.

Reporting on October 30, the New York times sent out a friendly reminder that Influenza needs a little media love too. In fact, according to the CDC, flu season is nearly upon us! Flu season usually lasts from December until March, with the peak being in February most seasons. So, NYT author Ann Carrns demands a little more respect for the contagious respiratory affecting Orthomyxo virus.

Intrigued by the author's call out to the media, I wanted to investigate the difference in attention paid towards Ebola versus seasonal Influenza. Lacking a great analytical tool that I could use to parse out all articles published on Ebola and influenza in the last month, I simply used and searched Ebola and Influenza. Needless to say, Ebola is the favorite virus by far, returning a total of 24.2 million articles, while influenza returned 58,900 articles.

I guess this blog post doesn't really do much to even out the score, as I am reporting on both of the viruses, however the US really should be worrying more about Influenza in the states. From 1976 to 2007, the flu associated deaths have ranged from a low of 3,000 deaths to 49,000 deaths. In the US, there has been 1 associated death with Ebola thus far (CNN Ebola Fast Facts had that information readily accessible, I had to dig significantly deeper to find the CDC flu death estimate). 

This is a pretty well reported rant in this class, so I should stop my internet vent session here. However, if you happen to know a reporter or author who is thinking about writing a wildly successful article about Ebola (seriously BuzzFeed?), have them write about the situation in West Africa, not about our health workers private lives. 

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