AS SEEN ON: Fed up with the flu frenzy

by Leslie Adkins | 5/20/09 12:03am

While I normally use this column as a forum for discussing reality shows or scripted series, a recent phenomenon has demanded my attention this week. Although swine flu might not seem analogous to a hit prime time series, the news coverage of this virus is a creature all its own. The pandemic heard 'round the (girdled) earth, swine flu is just the latest global panic-inducing phenomenon to invade the air waves.

I, for one, am sick of it.

While watching the 11:00 p.m. news each day, I have observed endless segments and news briefs from the New Hampshire ABC and NBC affiliates tracking the "probable" cases of swine flu -- which usually test negative -- in the Granite State. The repeated promise to "keep you updated" on a non-existent statewide outbreak and news teasers about the flu on the hour have worn me thin.

For the record, there are 20 positive cases of swine flu and no deaths so far in New Hampshire, according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga. Anyone with a good immune system who is not very young is unlikely to die from the disease. If you live in a small town tucked in the hills of New Hampshire, your chances of catching it are even lower.

I'm tired of the exaggerated television hype. Rather than creating a simmering panic across the United States and dabbling in "hypotheticals," news stations should inform the public of the actual risk.

As I sat in a New York City hotel room penning this column, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg interrupted the normally scheduled morning program "Rachael Ray" to discuss the swine flu-related death of 16-month-old Jonathan Zamora Castillo. This was, of course, in the wake of the death of a Queens assistant principal -- the city's first death due to swine flu -- along with four confirmed cases of swine flu at the Rikers Island jail facility, and the closing of 17 New York public schools and the private Horace Mann School.

Despite these developments, New York news stations -- unlike their counterparts in New Hampshire -- are paragons of efficiency in their swine flu coverage. They give the "who, what, where, why and how" without fuss or complication. They discuss the results and status of actions taken against the flu rather than reacting hysterically.

As a visitor in the City that Never Sleeps, I've been impressed with the New York media's realism in its coverage of swine flu. Although I anticipate the piggy flu will inspire a creative pandemic-related television series in the future, I can only hope that the overblown New Hampshire swine flu hysteria disappears, never to frighten the public again.