Tag Archives: epidemic

Veteran journalist offers advice on covering disease outbreaks

Bara Vaida

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in outlets that include the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico and The Washington Post.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This year is starting off with one of the worst flu seasons in a decade. As of the week ended Jan. 27, the number of hospitalizations due to the flu is the highest it has been in nearly a decade, and flu activity has been as highest reported since the peak of the 2009 swine flu pandemic, the CDC said. The CDC was also quick to note that this outbreak isn’t a pandemic.

It is likely that flu won’t be the only outbreak in 2018. Over the past year, there was an outbreak of yellow fever in Brazil, plague in Madagascar, cholera in Yemen and measles in Minnesota. While no one knows what else might occur in 2018, there is likely to be another infectious disease outbreak somewhere in the world in the coming year. Continue reading

AHCJ Atlanta panel discusses antibiotic resistance

Katja Ridderbusch

About Katja Ridderbusch

Katja Ridderbusch (@K_Ridderbusch) is an Atlanta-based independent journalist who contributes to newspapers, magazines, online media, and public radio stations in Europe and the United States. She frequently reports about the politics and business of health care.

The rise of deadly, drug-resistant superbugs is one of the world’s most pressing public health concerns. The dangerous development is driven by overuse and misuse of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture, resulting in a dramatic increase in people infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

By 2050, 10 million people globally could die from drug-resistant bugs, which could lead to a loss of productivity of $100 trillion. Continue reading

Journalists must succeed where politicians fail in risk communication

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Image: wackystuff via Flickr

Image: wackystuff via Flickr

With no new cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in South Korea since July 2, the outbreak appears to have ended. Commentaries such as a recent Nature editorial are assessing the damage and the response – and the damage of the response.

In total, 186 people became sick with the virus and 36 died. Yet the response to the virus in South Korea shared something in common with the response to Ebola in the United States during the West African outbreak last year: It was over the top, largely because public officials have yet to master adequate risk communication. Continue reading

Eight-part series on hepatitis C finds unique moment in an epidemic

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Kristin Espeland Gourlay

Kristin Espeland Gourlay

While working on a documentary about opioid addiction, Kristin Espeland Gourlay, the health care reporter for Rhode Island Public Radio, discovered there was another story waiting to be covered: hepatitis C.

She writes that new drugs had hit the market with reported cure rates of 95 percent or more, but they cost upwards of $90,000 for a full course. She found that the arrival of these new drugs coincides with another trend: Millions of baby boomers who contracted the disease decades ago are just now showing up in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms, sick with something most didn’t know they had.

Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJ

Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJ

Add to that a wave of new infections, spreading among younger injection drug users – people who got hooked on opioids and then turned to heroin – and she found that it was a unique moment in the history of an epidemic.

In this AHCJ article, she shares what she learned, what sources she used, as well as a list of potential story ideas. As she points out, this epidemic will impact many lives but also state budgets.

Read how she did her reporting and what she learned.

AHCJ member speaks to attorneys about information in public health crises

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

This is a guest post from AHCJ member Rose Hoban, R.N., M.P.H.

What kind of information are public health officials obligated to provide to members of the public during an epidemic?

That was the theme of a panel this month at the third Public Health Law Conference in Atlanta with the theme of “Informing the Public While Protecting Privacy.”

I was asked to be part of the panel as a result of my participation in a collaborative effort between members of AHCJ and the leaders of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers and the National Association of County and City Health Officials, several state health directors, and representatives from federal agencies in 2010.

During that effort, we sat down to talk about creation of guidance for communicating during crises such as the H1N1 outbreak that took place in 2009-10.

Rosemary Hoban
Rose Hoban

I presented that guidance and the context of its creation to a room of about 40 attorneys who practice in the public health space. I acknowledged the difficulty public health officials have walking the line between giving journalists enough information to report effectively while allowing them to feel confident they’re protecting privacy. I also reassured them that by following the guidance, they’d be able to do both.

Also on the panel was Khaled El Emam, a professor of informatics from the University of Ottawa, who runs the Electronic Health Information Lab.

El Emam talked about his research in de-identifying personal identifying information in large databases, and the surprising ease with which one can glean personal information about an individual even within a large database.

He presented a tool developed by the lab that calculates the probability of an individual being identified in a given population. Continue reading