Journalists and experts have written about covering infectious diseases and presented discussions on the topic at AHCJ conferences and workshops. This is a collection of the most useful and relevant tips. Click the title of the tip sheet that interests you and you will be asked to login because these are available exclusively to AHCJ members.
Resources for reporting on the 2021-2022 flu season
The flu is endemic to humanity and typically emerges in the late fall or winter seasons. This is likely because high humidity and warm temperatures hinder the spread of the virus. The word “influenza” comes from the Italian word “influence,” meaning an illness influenced by the cold. The height of flu season is usually December through February, but officially begins Oct. 1 and lasts through the end of May the following year.
Covering HIV: A 2021 update
June 2021 marks 40 years since the CDC first published a morbidity and mortality report about five men with pneumonia-like symptoms that are now known to have been caused by acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
It took several more years for scientists to determine the pathogen causing AIDS was the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and many additional years to determine HIV evolved from nonhuman primates. The CDC recently published a comprehensive history and context of the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
Use these resources to background yourself on COVID-19 vaccine development
The race to find a vaccine has spurred much media attention. As of mid-October, between 50 and 179 promising vaccine candidates were under study, with more than 50 having reached the human clinical trial stage.
Many of the studies and trials are taking place in the U.S. and are part of the White House’s Operation Warp Speed program. Many more are being conducted outside the country.
So what is political hype and what is real? Which vaccine candidates should reporters be paying attention to? How can they keep track of them and report findings responsibly to the public?
Here are some resources, expert sources and other tips to help you make sense of the COVID-19 vaccine race and report it responsibly.
Coronaviruses: Background and sources for your reporting
Updated Oct. 31, 2020
On Jan. 30, the World Health Organization declared 2019-nCoV, a coronavirus, a public health emergency of international concern and on March 10, declared it a pandemic. The last time it declared a pandemic was the swine flu in 2009.
Bara Vaida, AHCJ’s core topic leader on infectious diseases, has compiled links and contact information for sources on the topic, as well as useful background to inform your reporting. This tip sheet is being updated as the story evolves.
Resources for reporting the impact of COVID-19 on older adults
There are plenty of story angles and resources for reporters to tackle as cases continue to climb.
Tips on finding and vetting experts during a disease outbreak
Covering foodborne illness and food safety
This year, there have been dozens of cases of tainted food including romaine lettuce, basil, papaya, ground bison, as well as backyard hens, turtles and treats for dogs that have been linked to human illnesses. Further, there are a growing number of pathogens resistant antibiotics that are being found in food. For example, resistant bugs in beef and cheese products sickened 255 people in 32 states in October 2019.
Seasonal flu resources updated for 2019-20 season
Here is background on the flu and the vaccine, as well as recent coverage, expert sources and more resources to inform your reporting
Resources for covering Hurricane Dorian and disaster preparedness
Excessive flooding and damage to local health infrastructure means people will be dealing with the public health effects of the storm for a while.
Even if you’re not reporting on an affected location, this may be a good time to ask some questions of your local public health leaders and write about disaster preparedness issues. Here are some resources to help craft those questions.
Covering the mosquito-borne disease malaria
Infectious disease topic leader Bara Vaida has written a tip sheet that covers the history of malaria, efforts to eradicate it, how it infects people and some of the symptoms. She includes a list of story ideas for reporters and links to some background reading and news.
Emergency preparedness among U.S. hospitals a potential story for your community
Much of the challenge is that most of the nation’s health system belongs to private and non-governmental entities. Getting together to plan for a major disaster isn’t a top priority, health experts say.
Bara Vaida, AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases, offers background on planning, funding and organizations, as well as story ideas and contact information for sources.
Resources to help you cover mosquito season in your community
Get story ideas, resources and contacts for experts to help you cover mosquito-borne illnesses.
Tick season increasingly begins sooner with climate change
“There are more tick-borne disease [cases] every year,” John Aucott, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Lyme Disease Clinical Research Center, told WebMD.
The CDC recorded 59,349 cases of tick-borne illnesses in 2017, and there were likely 10 times more cases, since cases of diagnosed Lyme disease (the most common tick-borne disease) often don’t get reported to the CDC, according to the agency’s own assessment of medical records and other data.
Tip sheet for covering HIV today: A 2019 update
She also urges caution in how some breakthroughs are conveyed, highlights disparities among those who are being treated and not, prevention interventions and the best way to describe the result of some recent research.
Journalists’ role in covering vaccine hesitancy
“Vaccine hesitancy” as a term has emerged in recent years as a more neutral way to discuss attitudes toward vaccines, without identifying people strictly as “anti” or “pro” vaccine.
Get ideas for how to responsibly cover vaccine hesitancy in your community, as well as a list of experts to contact.
Covering climate change, infectious diseases and health
A common thread involved in all of these public health threats is climate change.
Covering STDs: What reporters need to know
The reasons for the increases are multi-faceted. They include decreased public health funding, lack of understanding about how STDs spread, social stigma, less access to health care and fewer health provider screenings. Social determinants also play a role in which populations are more at risk of exposure to an STD and whether they get treatment. Further, the opioid epidemic has been associated with increase in STDs among pregnant women, said David C. Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors during a Nov. 1 AHCJ webcast.
Learn more about the increase, story ideas, sources and experts to tap into for your reporting.
What reporters need to know about antibiotic resistance
As of 2013, at least 2 million people in the U.S. had contracted an antibiotic-resistance bacterium, with 23,000 dying annually as a result, according to estimates based on the most recent data available to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The threat has become so dire, CDC officials have said, that for some patients the medical community has reached a “post-antibiotic” era.
Here are some resources for your reporting.
Background and sources for covering 2018-19 seasonal flu
When flu virus attacks the respiratory system, it can weaken the immune system leaving the body vulnerable to contracting other serious diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis, and cause death.
Learn about new research showing “strong associations” between the development of respiratory infections, especially influenza, and heart attacks and strokes in older adults. Get more background, data, contact information for experts and some questions that reporters should be pursuing in this tip sheet.
Connecting the dots between social determinants and infectious diseases
For journalists looking for story ideas, the connections between socioeconomic issues, the opioid epidemic and infectious diseases is a rich area for exploration. Bara Vaida has compiled this tip sheet to help with resources and ideas to help journalists cover the essential topic of social determinants and infectious diseases.
Resources for understanding Ebola and the ethics of covering outbreaks
Many adults aren't getting their vaccines: How to report on this trend
Updated May 2018
Get up to speed on biological weapons and their potential threat
For journalists looking for local bioterrorism angles, consider looking into whether there is a BioWatch program running in the community and is it working? Are any local scientists working on pathogen-altering research? And for more bioterrorism resources, check out our new tip sheet on covering bioterrorism.
Veteran journalist offers advice on covering disease outbreaks
Getting up to speed on the latest news on HIV
Here she shares what you need to know getting started covering the new science of HIV.
Neutral and accurate: Covering HIV in the modern era
See what they are and how to improve your coverage of this important topic.
Watching - and covering - emerging diseases
Many diseases on this list are also zoonoses and caused by viruses, and all are emerging infectious diseases – or they have the potential to re-emerge in the near future.
Fast facts on vector-borne diseases
There are a number of vector-borne diseases circulating in the United States, including Zika, West Nile and Lyme disease. In the coming years, these diseases may be a growing threat to an increasing number of Americans as a result of climate change. Here is some background on diseases you might be called upon to write about.
Reporting on zoonotic diseases without inflaming panic
Zoonotic diseases, or zoonoses, spread from vertebrate animals to human beings from viruses, bacteria, fungi, or other communicable agents, and scientists estimate 75 percent of new emerging infectious diseases will be zoonotic in origin. Humans and animals have a close relationship on an increasingly crowded planet, and this means zoonoses will be the diseases to watch in the near future.
But most people haven’t heard of zoonotic diseases, and most journalists haven’t covered them. In fact, these infectious diseases rarely make headlines or the nightly news until human-to-human transmission reaches potential pandemic proportions.
These terms and resources offer context on future zoonotic-related outbreaks and how global partnerships can make prevention possible.
Pandemic threat: Is the world ready for another outbreak?
The in-depth paper looks at the background of infectious diseases as well as emerging threats, leadership and collaboration in th global health community and predictions about the next pandemic. An extensive bibliography and related reading list offer a guide to sources for reporters. CQ Researcher has granted access to this report for AHCJ members.
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