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View Diary: Flu Stories: UK Deals With H5N1 Outbreak; US Plans For Graded Response (115 comments)

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  •  risk is relative... (0+ / 0-)

    Again, think of hurricanes. You can't say "well, more people die in motor vehicle accidents than cat 4 hurricanes, so why bother planning, especially since we didn't have a hurricane this year?" The result is Katrina-type aftermaths in a non-predictable but inevitable fashion, and that is simply not acceptable. Saving lives requires that we avoid a failure of imagination, as in "no one could have predicted..."

    I feel you're lurching between extremes. I did not suggest we "should not bother planning" for things that have a lower risk than others.

    My point was that we aren't very good (as a society) at assessing risk, and that the very mentality of risk is what gives us the one-percent doctrine in response to terrorism (a point you did not address). We often over-play things with minuscule risk (avian flu, homicide) and underplay things with known, high, risks (smoking, driving). I do this too, btw!

    Risk may or may not be cumulative. The risk of dying from last year's strain of flu is lower now than then.

    PS Re: PSAs. I didn't say we don't need them, rather that they can give misleading impressions, because in their attempt to get a clear message out they're not adequately describing a complex situation.

    This often leads to inappropriate responses by the public (eg., over-estimating the chance of sickle-cell anaemia or diabetes if you're black, even though there is no biological meaning to race). Corporations then profit from this, eg BiDil, the first FDA "race-based medicine". There's a website in Florida that sells race-based vitamins ("if you're Latino, click here"). Coincidence? Maybe, but I think it's because we're presented with race-based information so often.

    Risk assessment is a political act, as surely Katrina showed. Katrina was predictable in the same way that global climate change leads to predictable consequences.

    •  pandemics are in the category (0+ / 0-)

      of global climate change and Katrinas rather than 1% solutions. They are cumulatively higher probability,  although they are low probability, high risk for any given year.

      Sorry if I've misinterpreted what you are saying. I don't think a rational transparent data-driven approach to things like pandemics and hurricanes, with stakeholder input from the public, has much to do with political approaches to terrorism.

      Now, if you are saying you don't trust the government or this administration regardless, that's another issue altogether. I would point out that there's plenty of outside-the-government opinion supporting thhis pandemic approach, some of which I've quoted in the comments.

      "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

      by Greg Dworkin on Sun Feb 04, 2007 at 08:28:15 AM PST

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      •  Guess I wasn't clear... (0+ / 0-)

        Now, if you are saying you don't trust the government or this administration regardless, that's another issue altogether. I would point out that there's plenty of outside-the-government opinion supporting thhis pandemic approach, some of which I've quoted in the comments.

        No, I wasn't saying that. I'm saying let's put it in perspective! Killers such as malaria and AIDS have not disappeared. We've spent billions of dollars on developing millions of doses of anthrax and smallpox vaccines (most of which are thrown away), yet in 2003 Congress approved only half the $100 million requested to develop better flu vaccines.

        I was linking to the Time article about misperceptions of risk, which in turn is based on interesting work of people like Gerd Gigerenzer on "dread risk," and discussions about the whole way the risk-to-fear meme operates (hereand herefor example).

        One might also usefully read this book by an MD on the politics of fear: False Alarm. He usefully differentiates between potential risk and actual risk.

        And as he points out, one does not need to claim that there are no risks to understand that risk is not always correctly perceived by the public and the media, or that public authorities can exacerbate those misperceptions. For example, flu is likely to be more of a worry in developing countries where medical resources are stretched, rather than the USA.

        When parents of newborn babies won't let relatives visit in case of flu transmission, when there is panic about school closings, we might wonder how we got to that point.

        As Dr. Gerberding (Director of the CDC) has said:

        "for almost everyone, flu is not such a serious disease. We don't need to panic or assume that the worst-case scenario is going to happen to everyone. Most of us will get through this fine."

        Thanks for the conversation. I'm off to wash my hands!

        •  thank you! it is an interesting topic! (0+ / 0-)

          I cringe when I see the word 'panic' used in relation to bird flu, because no one is panicking. Everyone who uses the term should be required to give two examples of actual panic over bird flu.

          Instead, the assumption is made (and a faulty one, disputed by research and congressional testimony from communication experts) that "people will panic".That's wrong. The public will not panic. They will adjust. The problem is too little info, not too much. A background awareness needs to become the 'new normal' as risk communication expert peter sandman describes it. And the paternalistic attitude towards information only engenders distrust.

          So, thanks for bringing up the topic. it is really interesting.

          "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

          by Greg Dworkin on Sun Feb 04, 2007 at 06:51:57 PM PST

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