Via C-Health, a CP story by Helen Branswell: Constant use of 'mild' to describe swine flu misleading people about threat. Excerpt:
Officialdom's mantra about swine flu - "it is overwhelmingly mild" - might seem incongruous if we knew the number of children, teens and young adults in ICU beds right now alive only because a breathing machine has taken over for their ravaged lungs.
The heavy reliance on the word "mild " could be creating a false impression of what is actually going on and what the world may face in coming months, some experts worry.
Peter Sandman, a risk communications guru from Princeton, N.J., suggests if authorities are trying to ensure people don't panic about the new H1N1 outbreak, they are concerned about the wrong thing.
"In North America, swine flu panic is much rarer than swine flu deaths," Sandman says. "The problem isn't panic or even excessive anxiety. The problem is complacency, both about what's going to happen and about what might happen."
When the new H1N1 virus burst onto the world's radar, it was, for awhile, the hottest story of the 24-7 news cycle. The long threatened pandemic, it seemed, was finally underway.
But instead of the 60-plus per cent death rate of H5N1 avian flu - seen for years as the pandemic frontrunner - the wire was tripped by a seemingly wimpy virus that is causing a lot of flu, but is no viral monster. In many places, public health officials have bent over backwards to tamp down anticipated panic.
The results? Within a few weeks, most people appeared to be convinced the pandemic was (past tense) a non-event, a blip of flu activity over-hyped by the sensationalist media hoard.
"When we're told that swine flu is mild, we don't think, 'It will infect a half to a third of the world population and kill a few million people, mostly young people, before it's over,"' says Sandman. "We think, 'It's like having a bad cold."'
Well, swine flu isn't over. And it's not like a bad cold sweeping the globe.