Saturday, May 2, 2009

Maybe It's Time for a New Word

Something about the word "pandemic" seems to scare people beyond reality. Maybe it's time to start defining the word instead of showing endless pictures of people wearing masks and drawing samples from innocent pigs while failing to provide much hard information.

The Washington Post has this today:
Michael T. Osterholm, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, said the situation is analogous to forecasting a hurricane when meteorologists know only that there is a high-low pressure gradient in the Atlantic. "Everyone in one week wants an answer as to what it will do. Anyone who gives you an answer right now, do not listen to them about anything else because you cannot trust them," Osterholm said.

WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl noted yesterday that the public may misunderstand the word "pandemic." The term refers to where an illness spreads, not its severity.

From the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health:

Pandemic—an epidemic occurring over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting large numbers of people. A global disease epidemic.

I'm trying for a "flu the coop" line but it's not happening so far.

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