Update on Flu Coverage September 22, 2009Posted by Nina Rosenstand in Current Events, Nina Rosenstand's Posts.
Tags: "societal panic", H1N1 virus
There is a very good article today from HealthDay News making more or less the same point that I made below in my posts about media coverage of the H1N1 flu, reassuringly putting things in perspective, and warning about the risks of “societal panic”:
Not only does societal panic not help during a public health situation, such as the current H1N1 flu pandemic, it can actually backfire, creating its own set of problems, the experts said.
“We have limited resources in the U.S. — if this [swine flu] captures our negative imagination, it’s going to hurt our health-care system,” said Dr. Marc Siegel, associate professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine in New York City. “Our emergency rooms will be flooded with worried people, doctors’ phones will be hanging off the hook, everyone will be afraid of every sniffle and wanting to get tested for the flu.”
In addition, the article has a piece of advice I hadn’t even thought of:
Remember that fear is unhealthy. “All that anxiety does is weaken your immune system, which puts you at greater risk for catching this virus or any other virus,” Klapow said. “Getting a grip is critical — not just so you feel better emotionally but it will increase the chance that you ward this off.”
Of course that’s double-edged: “Don’t panic because panic can make you sick!” That’ll really make people panic…but the whole point is to “get a grip,” like the article suggests, and see things in the proper perspective. Here we could add, with Aristotle, that sometimes fear—or should I say hightened mental and emotional alertness—is appropriate: In cases where we need our amygdala to kick in, because we’re facing an actual life-threatening situation, we need that extra adrenaline. But judging when, and if, such a high-alert response is needed is a matter of rational evaluation, in addition to our emotional reaction.