Headlines like this one I saw in a tweet from the BBC news today, “Swine Flu Woman Dies After Birth”, are quite aggravating and misleading. Especially when, upon actually reading the article, although she may have died of the H1N1 flu, it turns out that they are still waiting to determine the official cause of the women’s death. There wasn’t much detail in this short article, but briefly, the woman, Susan Ford, got a C-section after being admitted to the hospital with flu-like symptoms and apparently she died a few days later once her symptoms got worse. It is unclear if she was admitted because her symptoms were quite bad – or she was in labor. I know that in the media age there is pressure to put stories out quickly – but with tools like twitter it’s dangerous to put misleading and incomplete information out there. Especially with a tool like twitter where a reader may only see the headline and then not even bother to click to find out if the woman really did die of swine flu.
This is similar to the recent cervical cancer vaccine scare when a girl died by chance just hours after she recieved the vaccine at school. The BBC ran this story under the headline “Schoolgirl Dies After Cancer Jab” (sound familiar?? and for us Americans – “jab” means vaccine shot). It turns out the girl actually died of a serious underlying medical condition that she did not know about, completely unrelated to the vaccine shot. The BBC subsequently ran articles to try to regain the public’s faith in the vaccine such as “Keep Faith with Cancer Jab Plea”, but I’m sure the damage had already been done to the public’s viewpoint. While this latest offense may make people more inclined to recieve the swine flu vaccine it is just another example of sensationalist reporting about the H1N1 flu.