Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Blurring the line between fact and fiction- Bird Flu

I won't be watching the ABC TV movie tonight. I watch the tube for enjoyment, not to become perturbed. I doubt the project was researched fully as stated by ABC. Movies are works of fiction based on few facts, unless the films are documentaries. Having a very strong science background, I know much more than the average television viewer. My SO and I constantly see errors when watching TV or movies. My SO views them as factually significant. I consider the situation (It's a TV show.) and the fact that the majority of US viewers are naive in matters of science or just don't care since they watch TV for entertainment. Take into consideration that this is sweeps week and then a movie like this makes sense- to the entertainment industry and advertisers.

Yes, "bird flu" possibly could become a pandemic, but it is unlikely. Does anyone recall the big SARS scare? Old news. Humans have much more to worry about with their mis-use of antibiotics, antibiotic soaps, poor hygiene - ie., coughing or sneezing with an open mouth, shaking hands, changing babies' diapers on tables in restaurants, etc. Global warming, air and water pollution, MAD cow disease, overpopulation and the proximity of humans living with animals, third world health issues, global travel, etc. provide infinitely more substance about which to worry. Consider West Nile Virus, antibiotic resistant tuberculosis and the resurgence of so-called diseases like measles, whooping cough, chicken pox and mumps that had been eradicated in this country. Most Americans are much more likely to contract hanta virus from rodents than bird flu. Modern vaccines are more of a danger to our society than bird flu likely ever will be. We live in an age of sensationalism and fear and the majority of the population is ripe for the pickin'.

When bird flu first became news, some booksellers on the Amazon discussion board announced they were going to buy 'Tamiflu' as a preventive measure. I wonder if anyone knows 'Tamiflu' must be used within the first 24 hours of exposure, or that a flu shot doesn't "give" a person the flu. (The injected vaccine is not a live culture, whereas the nasal spray is a weakened live vaccine. A live vaccine is more likely to cause problems- if any.) How does anyone truly know when their first exposure occurs in the first place?

Too much information, I know, but checking all the links will make you a better informed citizen with fewer worries. If you still think bird flu will reach pandemic levels, get prepared in advance with extra food, water, prescriptions and supplies to last- at least a few months. Especially in light of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, a small area when compared to a pandemic, I suggest everyone should be prepared for any type of natural disaster to occur at any time anyway. I certainly do not want to be reliant on anyone or anything other than myself in an emergency. You know the saying, if you want something done right, do it yourself.

On a lighter(?) note, David Blaine only succeeded in masochism over the last week. If nothing else, this man definitely has self-control.

If you prefer fiction to facts when it comes to disease, here are a few great reads:
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
The Eleventh Plague: A Novel of Medical Terror by John S. Marr, MD, and John Baldwin
The Third Pandemic by Pierre Ouellette
Pandemic by Daniel Kalla
Vector and Contagion by Robin Cook
Fatal by Michael Palmer
These and other suspenseful medical thrillers can be found for sale at your local independent bookstore or by searching by title and/or author at Bookfinder or ADDALL


Thom said...

I work in the news department of an ABC affiliate. (I stumbled upon your blog while avoiding work.) Today, we are focusing on separating the fact from the fiction in this movie. In fact, all of ABC News seems to be working to cover the entertainment division's butt on this movie. The movie definitely comes across as something to scare people, and unreasonable, as you point out. But, know that there are some of us trying to let the public know it's fiction.

FrauBucher said...

Thanks, Thom! Kind regards, Frau