The BBC reported today that 29 people have died in the UK to date due to the swine flu pandemic. A scan of major news sites around the globe today shows little or no coverage of this pandemic outside the UK. In fact, a Google search shows that the media elsewhere has been accused of over hyping the swine flu. Perhaps these accusations have hit home and they are backing off in their coverage. At least within the UK the BBC has shown that it is at least wrestling with the issue of fairly reporting this story as a public service.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on their website indicate the swine flu is a Stage 6 event. This is defined as a moderate pandemic. Apparently the illness has not been fatal in many cases, at least so far. While the flu is spreading in other places besides the UK, especially in the USA, it does not seem to have caused great concern among the public or among the major media there.
What is bothersome is that a pandemic that has such potential to cause such great loss of life around the world is being so ignored. One has to wonder if it is because people have their head in the sand and don’t want to think about such negative possibilities. They would rather spend their time reflecting on such news as who will get custody of Michael Jackson’s kids. I watched one panel discussion on a US media outlet in which the participants were wringing their hands over the need to cover the Michael Jackson story so extensively in order to compete with the other media who were also doing so. Would that the worlwide media follow the BBC’s example on this issue and focus their attention more on the potential of the pandemic.
It is difficult to predict the course of the swine flu pandemic, but the media outside of the UK has a responsibility to make this story more of a priority and inform the public of its causes, its effects and the potential remedies.