Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 20, 2009

The DAILY NEWS panics over H1N1

Filed under: Biosecurity,Preparedness and Response — by Philip J. Palin on May 20, 2009

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there are 276 laboratory-confirmed cases of H1N1 in the state of New York.  Most of these have been concentrated in New York City.

This morning the New York Daily News – that pillar of probity – offers the following headlines for your breakfasting and commuting pleasure:

Swine flu panic hits NYC

Swine flu panic in NYC heads into higher gear

As swine flu keeps causing panic, when will Mayor Bloomberg close the schools?

City education officials fumble creation of clear swine flu school-closing rules

These are the headlines even after H1N1 was cleared as the cause of  a widely reported infant death

Compare and contrast the reality construed by the headlines above to the reality presented by this statement from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: “Seasonal and H1N1 influenza are both present in New York City, but neither is currently causing an unusual rate of severe illness.”

Three more NYC schools are to be closed today.  According to the city health department, “Over the last five days, the city closed 15 schools in Queens (I.S. 238, P.S. 16, Q255, I.S. 5, JHS 74, P.S. 107, M.S. 158, Our Lady of Lourdes, I.S. 25, World Journalism Preparatory, Q233, P.S. 209, P9, P.S. 19 and P.S. 32) and one in Brooklyn (I.S. 318) after documenting confirmed cases of H1N1 at I.S. 238Q, and unusually high levels of flu-like symptoms in the other schools.  The Health Department continues to work with the Department of Education to assess the situation daily and make decisions regarding school closures on a case by case basis.”

There are 1499 public schools in New York City serving more than 1.1 million students.  The New York Daily News also offers this headline: Working parents scramble to find child care as swine flu outbreak closes schools.

Imagine the risk to children, the economy, and more involved in shutting down the entire school system in response to “flu-like symptoms.”

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3 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 20, 2009 @ 8:04 am

Clearly the “news” media need to learn the difference between the “Public Affairs” operations of governmental agencies and the “Emergency Public Information” organizations. This current flu outbreak has never more clearly shown the difference between what is really counter-propaganda and the highly technical issuance of PARs (Protective Action Recommendations) to the Public–e.g. shelter or evacuate.
While we have a free press I would like Congress to hold hearings and call in the Press Barons and discuss this distinction with them.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 21, 2009 @ 9:51 am

#10 in US now dead according to NPR! Notice no effort at signage in congregate care centers or gatherings for basic prevention. Again we have gone into a largely reactive mode as a country waiting for mass impacts because it is out of the news cycle. Could be an interesting fall without vaccine! Also some early reports linking the virus to presence in water supplies of Arsenic. Who knows! Does WHO know?

Pingback by Summing Up The H1N1 Summit From Citizen POV: Start Preparing For Possible Severe Fall Outbreak; Federal, State, Local Officials Now ‘Working The Problems’ On Policies/Logistics For Schools, Workplaces, Vaccine Distribution & Risk Communica

July 13, 2009 @ 5:47 pm

[...] coverage of H1N1. But the more knowledge and information the media has, the less likely it will stoke panic among the public. I imagine that officials will be briefing them soon on the same issues that were [...]

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