Have you got the ‘pig bug’ panic?

OK: sneezes can cause diseases. But journalism student Stacey Cosens is not fazed by the swine flu media scare stories


Considering that swine flu seems to be a harsher form of the more usual seasonal flu virus, surely we shouldn’t panic. Yet the media is instilling a mass moral panic so it can continue bombarding us with stories. | Photo: Ben Chau

Swine flu (H1N1) hasn’t been out of the headlines since the story broke at the end of April, and the news stories get more and more worrying.

Predictions of mass infection and death are rarely out of the newspapers, and you could be forgiven for panicking. At the time of writing, there have been 28 confirmed cases of swine flu, and 333 cases under investigation in the UK, according to Directgov.

However, considering there are over 60 million residents in this country, does a number so small really need to worry us? The figures are everywhere: 21 countries affected 1,490 confirmed cases of swine flu and 31 deaths.

Death is the worry here, yet people die of flu complications like pneumonia every year from seasonal flu. The media is portraying a mass wipe out of human population like that of BBC drama Survivors, when in reality, cases in countries outside of Mexico have been relatively mild, echoing that of normal flu.

Those who have contracted swine flu in this country have been given early doses of Tamiflu which has proven effective and have recovered within a week, and there is enough for half the population.

With two schools closed in London, should we consider the implications if the virus were to spread to Lincoln and shut the university down? Hundreds of students’ exams would be affected at such a crucial time. Most of us have been victim to illness here, I have spent much of my first year battling every illness that’s been thrown my way, including a couple of nasty cases of flu.

With student accommodation hardly the cleanest of places, it is easy to predict the worst. But wouldn’t it just mean that students would be out of action for a couple of weeks?

The problem with a pandemic flu is that it’s different to previous circulating strains so few, if any, people will have immunity to it. This could mean much of the country could catch it but this often the case for usual strains of flu. Surely it would only seem so severe because a lot of people would go down with it at the same time.

But let’s put things in perspective: currently swine flu pales in comparison to the many infectious diseases throughout the world. Tuberculosis has made a comeback in recent years and kills 1.5 million people yearly, but do we hear about this in the news? At the end of 2007, there was an estimated 77,400 people living with HIV in the UK, according to a HPA report from 2008.  Have people become anymore aware of the importance of safe sex?

There are many more things to worry about than swine flu at the moment. It is this mass hype of swine flu that echoes previous health panics of avian flu in 2006 and SARS in 2003. The media did exactly the same thing and warned of mass infection but aren’t we all still here?

There are always going to be fatalities with these viruses, but the real danger isn’t what the media make it seem. This is irresponsible journalism, from a media that should know better. By creating mass hysteria, they know they will sell more newspapers to an anxious public. It is time to stop focusing on what could happen, and start focusing on what is happening.

One Response to Have you got the ‘pig bug’ panic?

  1. Steven Benbow says:

    Another scare tactic to keep the general masses in fear and buy papers. Well done to the people that are taking this hype to the next level.

    People worry too much about what is good for them and what is bad them.
    Life is too short to worry about that.