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Akron Univ. School of Law

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fears of Flu Pandemic - More Harm Than Help?

LA Times questions whether public health officials were too preemptive in declaring a health emergency this past April when swine flu first hit the U.S. Fear of catching H1N1 has even affected the financial market, a harm perhaps disproportionate to the true health threat:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a “nationwide public health emergency” on April 26, when there were only 20 confirmed cases and no deaths.  The declaration prompted a huge spike in lab testing for H1N1, which in turn produced what Doshi calls a “concern bias, in which concern and anxiety may drive events more than the disease itself.”

Fears about H1N1 have been costly to the pork and travel industries, caused healthy people to endure mandatory isolation, and prompted massive government outlays for lab testing, antiviral medication purchases and expedited vaccine development. Unless things suddenly take an unexpected turn for the worse, all of that activity is probably out of proportion to the actual threat, he writes.

Even Elmo has something to say about swine flu these days, as the federal government launched a new partnership with Sesame Workshop to encourage children to maintain healthy habits:

Elmo FLU

                                               (Image from Washington Post)

"Come on! Wash your hands with Elmo! Wash, wash, wash!" the Muppet from Sesame Street sings in a public service announcement released Tuesday by the Obama administration. "Sneeze into your arm with Elmo," the character adds. "Ah-choo!"

The program has been criticized for taking the risk of H1N1 too lightly while many Americans wait on the new H1N1 vaccination, which will not be released until approximately November.

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