Ok, so Swine flu's no longer in fashion, Bird Flu's a distant memory and most people don't even remember SARS being the "in thing" to worry about back in 2002.
I am of the personal belief that the paranoia part of these paranoia outbreaks is mainly created by the media. I am not some crazy saying these illnesses don't exist. But let's put these things in context here using swine flu as an example since it's still fresh in people's minds and I am going by the UK statistics since I don't know the names of any "official" bodies doing statistics elsewhere, and if networks like fox news are to be listened to, then swine flu probably kills 99% of people infected and might have infected 75% of the world's population.
Between July 14th (the first UK swine flu death) and November 14th there were 214 deaths to swine flu in the UK according to the health Health Protection Agency, the statistics have been handily put together here. 214 deaths over four months Assuming the death rate was constant that makes a 642 deaths a year in the UK rate. That is rough figure since the swine flu death rate is far from constant, but lets use that for now for the next game I like to call "Things More Likely To Kill You Than Swine Flu!".
Falling in your own home (1650 people in 1998)
Accidental drug poisoning (649 people in 1998)
Road Accidents (3501 people in 1998)
Mental and behavioural disorders (14563 in 2005)
Smoking related (112,337 in 2002)
This isn't meant to be a morbid what will kill you type post, but that we know these things happen and are not running around everyday being worried about it (well perhaps some smokers are). I understand that papers are businesses like any other and have the primary purpose of selling as many copies as possible. So hyping how bad something is for the sake selling more copies is going to happen. But it is a worrying sign that people will believe papers more than trained doctors and medical professionals.
Ask your average person whether they believe their doctor or a journalist more and most people will say their doctor, yet oddly enough when faced with a big headline claiming one thing and a a doctor in the other. Most people will weirdly revert to feeling like the doctor is some distant figure that is not in touch with how things really are and that the papers are the real ones uncovering the truth of things. I find that bizarre personally. The media seem to use that power really badly too.
For example, one of the most irresponsible claims I have ever heard, the fear that the MMR jab causes autism. For those outside the UK that didn't hear the full crazy level that occured. One report made an observation (not conclusion) that every child in a 12 person case study showed signs of austism soon after receiving the MMR vaccine. Now bare in mind here that the original study took place in a school with a large number of autistic children. Since almost all children in the area had the vaccine, it wasn't particularly unluckily that going back in the kids records would show they took the vaccine before they started in that school. Many kids in the UK have the vaccine not long before nursery starting age. One random journalist saw the paper and drew his own conclusion that the MMR jab must be causing autism. 5 years of news paper headlines and parents refusing to get their kids immunised followed.
Some interesting things to note about the possible repurcusions of that. Firstly, the MMR jab vaccinates against Rubella. Rubella is known to increase the chances of a child developing Austism. Secondly, if you ever wanted statistical evidence for not being immunised causing problems then here it is. The MMR vaccine also immunises against measles. Adult on-set measles can cause blindness. In the early 90s there was a vaccine shortage meaning a lot of kids went un-vaccinated. 15 years later the measles rate shot up in the UK (remember all those measles adverts suddenly appearing on tv). 50% of people with adult on-set blindness in the UK in their 20s today have it because of that vaccine shortage (read Bad Science for more about that).
I find it scary that nowadays the media has the power to replicate such an event. If I believed for a moment that the media was merely reporting the currently believed evidence and therefore wasn't at fault it wouldn't be so bad, but sadly it's not.
The MRSA nonsence was a rediculous made up story. Now I am not so annoyed by the MRSA stuff as other invented stories. Since the MRSA story did genuinely get people to start paying attention to some of the bad hygiene in some UK hospitals. But I was very confused by it. MRSA is a bacteria that can lead you pretty ill. If you get it while your immune system is already in a bad way it can be fatal. But it's not too bad to a healthy person. Understandably it's not something you would want to get in hospital. People genuinely do die to it in hospitals around the world.
What is weird is that it is not a particularly big problem in the UK. There are plenty of other bacteria that kill people needlessly in UK hospitals, but MRSA isn't really a big one. But to read the papers during a 3 year period in the UK you'd be forgiven for thinking that the MRSA super bug was about to bring the world to it's knees through bad hygiene. The papers at the time reported that an independant lab found MRSA everywhere in UK hospitals. The lab was called "Chemsol Group Ltd". It turns out the lab was actually a shed in the garden of an MRSA Expert, Dr Malyszewicz. Or to quote his real title Mr Malyszewicz since his qualifications amounted to a non-accredited correspondence course PhD from America. Apparently the Chemsol Group always "gave positive results". Results that no other lab in the country managed to duplicate.
Like I said, in the MRSA case it's not so bad since there was a genuine problem in UK hospitals even if it was a different one from the one the media was trying to raise. I am willing to bet good money that medias around the world spout other nonsense that can actually do real damage to people if they listen to and follow. People will always make bad medical decisions, and doctors are not perfect, but when parents stop vaccinating their kids for poor reasons then I think then a discussion needs to be brought up.
Free media is great, I love it. But sometimes I think the media needs at least a little accountability when it can invent medical facts up fully in the knowledge that we live in an era where a great deal of people will listen to them. I know I do. I don't visit Iraq to see the situation, I have to hesitantly read/watch it through someone elses point of view. It's just in certain cases I either know from personal experience or the experience of someone I trust more than them how much crap they can invent.
So what do you guys think of the medias constant habit of making us feel like everything is going trash our health, and that all medications will as well.
.. and an additional point, how do you feel that it is only conventional medicines that get hammered, and never the alternative ones like homeopathy etc..