Epidemics in the News Today

Article Link: http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/michigan-confirms-first-measles-case/30887204

What do you think about the relationship between news outlets and public health today? Dramatized? Effective?

The rise of the internet age has brought with it both good and bad changes. With concerns to spreading the word about epidemics, for the most of the world today, the internet is the most efficient and quickest way to spread the word about a disease. However, with this power also comes the possibility of exaggeration, miscommunication, and panic. So, here we need to take faith that the people will not lose their heads in a panic and will wait and understand how to prevent a disease from spreading. I realized that the majority of the class readings for the week were about the over reported Ebola cases, and rather than adding on with more exciting articles about the same thing, I tried to branch out with a less “interesting” epidemic, the Measles outbreak. The Measles outbreak has had scrutiny from the nation over the past few months, especially when cases concern young children and the “belief” of parents not giving their children vaccinations to keep people safe. The above link to an article is not exactly the best example of great written work, but it is an example of what an average person in southeast Michigan would likely click on to get their news. Included is also the video of TV news coverage of the story. However, I think it does present the facts of the story in a relatively calm fashion, the way the public needs to hear it. The truth. No need for dramatization of a story line to get readers. I thought that the article presented the facts and quotes to support the overall theme in an effective and orderly fashion. It even included the symptoms of measles in the article, and more about vaccines. I would say the article doesn’t really have a good lede or kicker, but in this case I don’t think it needed one. Getting straight to the story seems to be the best for “breaking news” epidemic stories. I also included a link to a map from the CDC showing states affected by the measles outbreaks of early 2015: http://www.cdc.gov/measles/multi-state-outbreak.html

Also, if you’re still interested… this is another related article concerning vaccines for children in Michigan: http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2015/01/30/michigan-disease-outbreaks-spark-backlash/22626301/

-Carlea Hazzard

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3 Responses to “Epidemics in the News Today”

  1. I, too, thought that this article hit the nail right on the head with how it presented the case. No over-dramatization, no coddling the anti-vaccers either, just straight facts and what they mean for people in this situation. The problem is that there is so much misinformation out on the internet and the vast majority of people have not developed the skill to sift through the truth from the conspiracy theories out there. Still, articles like this one show that there is hope out there, that journalists can still be trusted to bring the facts and what the necessary course of action is to take from them in a reasonable manner.

  2. I actually talked to a person who works in crises management for the Red Cross in Yemen currently and he voiced a similar concern about how the media interacts with coverage of incidents, crises, and so forth. Besides the obvious issue of dramatization of specific angles that potentially miss the issue, his bigger concern is that the majority of outlets don’t ask the tough questions that are necessary (and that the public may not necessarily pay to read).

    With that said, it looks like the publishers of this article worked pretty closely with Michigan Health Officials, reporting both what this party said, as well as exterior parties that added insight to the matter.

    Like you alluded to, seems like a lot of the concern over whether to vaccinate kind of misses the plot and diverges into another issue that is more invested in politics, so it’s refreshing to just approach the main issue as is in some sense.

  3. I think the biggest problem with the internet and the spread of news regarding disease and public health issues is the fact that the average person with a blog is not usually an expert on the topic, making it easy for false information to be published and read by thousands. As an active user of the social media website “tumblr,” I see posts almost every day that are falsified, exaggerated, or misunderstood. A lot of the time, these inaccurate posts will receive upwards of 300,000 notes (reposts, likes, etc) before someone with knowledge on the topic clarifies the information. It’s scary to me to view things like this because for some internet users, especially users outside of the United States, their sole source of education on some topics comes from the internet.

    However, I think that there is little that can be done regarding this issue, as people are going to write what they want to write, and they should continue to be allowed to do so.

    In regards to professional health stories, like the one that you shared, I definitely agree with you that they should be presented in a way that avoids panic and miscommunication. The Local 4 story that you shared did a great job of calmly explaining the situation and listing the symptoms. I especially liked, “Dr. Sanford Vieder is a physician at Lakes Urgent Care in West Bloomfield. He said if you’re not sure, your doctor can do a simple blood test.” The use of the word “simple” sends the reader in the opposite direction of panic. I think that these health articles should be reassuring rather than frightening.

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