Thursday, March 20, 2008

Inaccurate Media Reporting

You may have heard reports from Ontario about flu cases being hospitalized there.

There are two very important elements to this information. First is to realize the speed with which rumours will spread. The fact is that there is NO medical evidence that the people in hospital suffering from Influenza A have bird flu. However, rumour spread that one patient had recently arrived from Bangladesh - and since that country has been experiencing H5N1 in their poultry, a false conclusion fueled the rumour rocket.

The second consideration is to realize how easy it is for media outlets to get information and to attempt to quickly to be the first to broadcast, film, or print information - sometimes without checking the accuracy of the reports.

This suggests to us that everyone should rely on at least two sources they trust to be assured of accurate and timely information about the progress of H5N1, and its possible mutation to a form that can easily be passed between humans (H2H).

We at Pitsel & Associates, Ltd. will endeavor to keep you abreast of the news on H5N1 and possible pandemic implications. We do believe that a pandemic is inevitable as we know historically that a pandemic occurs every 40 years or so, the last one being the Hong Kong flu in 1967. It is important to have facts and not hysteria guiding our reactions.

The official news release regarding the Ontario cases of flu is as follows:

"Media Statement - Bird Flu Speculation: Inaccurate Media Reporting

"Toronto, March 19/CNW - Toronto East General Hospital (TEGH) is concerned about inaccurate media speculation and reporting regarding human cases of avian flu. TEGH has no reason to speculate that any patients in the hospital have avian flu.

"Toronto is experiencing steadily increasing cases of seasonal flu in the community. For example, during the week of March 2 to 8th, 2008, there were 47 new cases of seasonal flu (not avian flu) in Toronto. Although TEGH has effectively responded to an increased number of patients with seasonal flu-like symptoms, including those from other facilities experiencing seasonal flu outbreaks, the hospital has no reason to believe that any patients at TEGH have H5N1 avian flu.

"Furthermore, media reports are indicating that the individuals suspected to have avian flu had recently traveled to Bangladesh. It is important to clarify that, according to the World Health Network, there have been no reported human cases of H5N1 avian flu in Bangladesh.

"TEGH has a comprehensive screening program to identify patients who present with potential respiratory illness. The hospital is proud of our record in identifying such individuals. Effective identification enables TEGH to provide appropriate treatment, to utilize respiratory precautions, and to protect staff and others. We are confident that no staff, patients or visitors have been inadvertently exposed to seasonal influenza at TEGH.

"We wish to reassure the public that the hospital is safe and that there is no reason for anybody who has visited the hospital to be concerned. All services, including scheduled procedures, continue to be fully available. We do not anticipate a need for any reduction in service or visitation restrictions."

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