Photo: CDCAedes aegypti
We’ve gathered some of the best, most science-based resources to help reporters who are covering Zika or may find themselves covering the emerging disease as the seasons change.
The NLM Outreach and Specific Populations Branch sent out this extensive list of resources from a wide range of U.S. and international health organizations. It includes information for special populations, epidemiology, detection and diagnosis, travel and does include some information in Spanish. Continue reading
From the Winter 2015 issue of HealthBeat.
Ebola coverage has fallen to a trickle, but the disease is still killing many people in West Africa. And today the concern is that the virus will become a permanent presence, burning on for years in rural areas. It also could flare up again in the United States and Europe, spreading cases across the globe.
Through it all, AHCJ’s healthjournalism.org, coordinated by managing editor Pia Christensen, has delivered tons of useful advice.
Some of these by AHCJ graduate research assistant Kris Hickman are useful nuggets, such as the difference between “infectious” and “contagious” or how quarantine differed from isolation.
Other posts explained that Ebola is much harder to spread than the measles.
And Joseph Burns, AHCJ’s core topic leader on health insurance, wrote an insightful piece showing how Thomas Eric Duncan’s uninsured status may have contributed to his death in Dallas from Ebola.
Image by NIAID via Flickr
Word choice matters, especially when it comes to covering a deadly disease.
You may have heard the terms “infectious” and “contagious” being used interchangeably in Ebola stories. Even health professionals sometimes use them that way, and that is adequate in many instances. However, minor differences between the two terms may play a role in which one you decide to use in a story.
According to the CDC, contagious means the bacteria or virus can be transmitted from person to person (a communicable disease), and is quantified by R-nought – a mathematical construct that predicts the number of people a contagious individual will infect. Continue reading
It’s been said that fear travels faster than the virus.
This is true. Given that Ebola is less contagious than many other communicable diseases, it’s easier to catch Ebola panic than Ebola itself. But if you’re a health care journalist writing about Ebola or the Ebola response, it’s sometimes hard to tell the real stories from the sensationalism.
In light of the Ebola diagnosis of two Dallas health care workers and the CDC initially placing blame on a “breach in protocol,” the past couple of days have seen a flurry of inflammatory Ebola coverage that focuses on the negatives. One of these is a survey from National Nurses United, the largest nurses’ union in the U.S.: 80 percent of NNU nurses surveyed don’t feel they have received adequate Ebola training. New allegations have surfaced that nurses treating him “worked for days without proper protective gear and faced constantly changing protocols.” Additionally, there have been federal funding cuts to public health preparedness and response activities: $1 billion less in FY 2013 than in FY 2002, a year in which the nation dealt with 9/11 and the anthrax attacks, and anticipated the SARS epidemic of 2003. Continue reading
Earlier today it was announced that Thomas Eric Duncan died in Dallas. Duncan, a Liberian national who contracted Ebola in Liberia, did not show symptoms on his journey to Dallas or immediately after his arrival. Various news outlets are reporting that travelers arriving in the United States from West Africa would have their temperatures taken and be asked to answer questionnaires ascertaining any possible exposure.
Given today’s events, it’s understandable that Internet speculation and media coverage have fanned the flames of public panic regarding Ebola. But reporters should be asking state and local epidemiologists if that panic is really justified.
Math can answer that question.