Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sloppy media coverage of avian flu

Popular media coverage of avian flu is confusing. This piece from WorldNetDaily is headlined “OUTBREAK! Has feared mutation of avian flu arrived? Doctors in Thailand, Indonesia see 1st signs of human-to-human spread.” The article reports that in Thailand two recent human flu cases can’t be traced to contact with birds. The cases were mild, and doctors speculate that waning virulence may have accompanied a mutation enabling human to human transmission. The problem is that the article cites no report of serologic analysis or evidence that the cases indeed represent the H5N1 avian variety. Moreover, no human disease contacts were mentioned. If there’s anything to this, the article certainly doesn’t inform us.

On down it says “Meanwhile, in Indonesia, the disease is spreading so rapidly, particularly in the capital of Jakarta, some health officials strongly suspect the long-dreaded mutation has already occurred.” Oh? They why does it say a few paragraphs below that only 13 avian flu cases have been confirmed in Indonesia?

And, if human to human transmission is the case here it’s not new. Human to human transmission of avian flu was well documented over a year ago.

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