Avian flu is one particular diseases that's popped up several times in recent history. Top Public Health Scares. The first concerned the H5N1 strain, which includes proved to be both infectious and deadly to humans. Since it broke out, there has been 633 cases reported and 377 deaths, mainly in Indonesia, Vietnam and Egypt. Then when another strain emerged in 2013 – H7N9 – there was panic and reports from China that 43 people had died. However, with one exception, it doesn't seem to have spread beyond China and there was a distinct drop-off in how many cases reported after April 2013, suggesting that it's either a seasonal virus or that the Chinese have taken effective precautions against it (i.e. by banning live bird markets). That doesn't stop the media still predicting that it may be the next Spanish Influenza though..
Now, this particular scare originated from a respected source – the President's Cancer Panel. In 2010, they released a report on the risk of carcinogens (i.e. toxins that increase the danger of cancer) and stated that the danger had been “grossly underestimated&rdquo ;.Suddenly, carcinogens were throughout us – in household products, in barbecued food and even in a colorant in Pepsi.Nevertheless the hysteria due to the 2010 report could have been a little bit of an overreaction – the American Cancer Society have published stats showing that the reason for cancer is only rarely regarding environmental carcinogens, and that the President's Cancer Panel report “does not represent scientific consensus.” So, yet another thing we don't have to bother about? Again, one that could just run and run…
Obviously, not absolutely all public health scandals are internet-era. Before the entire world wide web, the newspapers did a fine job of spreading the panic. And that's what happened in the UK in 1988, when then-Health Minister Edwina Currie declared that eggs may retain the deadly bacteria salmonella. Her statement was as follows: “the majority of the egg production in this country, sadly, has become affected with salmonella” and it caused both panic and outcry. The minister was well-known for her controversial statements, such as saying that Christians don't get AIDS, and this seemed as unfounded as the remainder of them. Top Public Health Scares.The affair died down eventually, but Currie was forced to resign and her reputation never recovered.
Another agriculture-themed one now, and oahu is the UK Foot and Mouth outbreak of 2001, which saw 6 million cows being culled, resulting in devastation and bankruptcy for farmers. The outbreak was first detected on a pig farm in Essex and was considered to have already been caused by the pigs eating illegally imported, infected meat. In 2007, there was another outbreak with the EU banning British beefimports immediately and the Prime Minister returning from holidays to take immediate action, including ordering protective cordons around infected areas. Thankfully, that outbreak was contained before it led to the destruction of 2001, but there was intense interest from the media, hoping to capitalize on the sense of panic. That's why the sole people to break the cordon were photographers, have been later fined and sentenced to community service. That's what happens when you try to create a public health scare
SARS was a genuine threat to global health, and the panic whipped up by the newspapers wasn't entirely unjustified, given the horror one traveller could cause. The GM food debate, on another hand, spiralled out of fact into fantasy rapidly, with the phrase “Frankenstein food” used to head up hysterical articles about how exactly we'd all soon be eating cow-pig hybrids and tomatoes as huge as our heads. In actual fact, most genetic modifying is performed to produce plants more resistant to insects, or to produce them grow quicker. The cow-pig is still an easy method off. You will find still concerns in regards to the risks of GM food, but there has been little evidence to suggest that humans have been damaged by eating it.
This is a controversy that will be still rumbling on. HFCS is a cheap sweetener included with a scarily wide range of foods, including savory staples like bread. Some people are passionately opposed to HFCS, saying it is fuelling the obesity crisis and that the total amount of HFCS found in an average soda is equivalent to an amount of poison. The scare started in 2004, whenever a research paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition unearthed that consumption of HFCS went up 1000% between 1970 and 1990. However, later studies in 2012 suggested that the results of HFCS have been overstated, with the Journal of Obesity suggesting that fructose isn't any worse than sucrose, also called sucrose.Top Public Health Scares. So is HFCS the culprit for the rise in obesity and diabetes? I think the solution is that no-one knows yet…
And number 1 of our list could be the BSE crisis that hit the UK in the mid-90s. It was another opportunity for journalists to show exactly how good they certainly were at animal-based puns, but the particular threat was minute – up to now, only 177 individuals have actually died of CJD, the human kind of BSE (“Mad Cow Disease”). Nonetheless it did put a huge hole in Britain's exports, and British beef has been tainted with the Mad Cow label ever since (although the foot and mouth outbreak didn't help its reputation). Top Public Health Scares. The then Conservative government, led by John Major, tried to get the E.U. ban overturned however it stayed set up until 2006 despite publicity stunts like Agriculture Minister John Gummer feeding his 4-year-old daughter a beefburger in front of the cameras. A humiliating episode at all times, but thankfully not with a huge human cost.
Now, this was a terrifying outbreak and, like the newest strain of bird flu, it began in China. The very first cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome were reported in November 2002, but as a result of the secrecy of the Chinese government, it wasn't made internationally public until February 2003. That's the point at which Liu Jianlun, a health care provider who'd treated SARS patients, arrived in Hong Kong for a wedding and stayed in room 911 of the Metropole Hotel. He became ill and died shortly afterwards but precautions weren't taken up to isolate him, so within weeks the virus had spread all over Hong Kong, with 80% of cases being traced back again to the hotel, or a healthcare facility where Mr Jianlun had died. Immediately after, the remaining world continued red alert, with overseas travellers being checked for SARS symptoms at airports. It never caused it to be far out of Asia, with Canada being the worst affected Western country, but it was a terrifying time for everyone who'd gone to Asia and the effects in China and Hong Kong were devastating, with 648 known deaths. Chilling stuff, and a difficult lesson in isolating germs.
This is another gift to journalists, with newspapers unable to stop themselves printing pig-based puns and pictures. But it absolutely was no laughing matter, with the outbreak in 2009 claiming 14,286 lives worldwide. Top Public Health Scares. However, it wasn't as bad as feared, and to put the figures in context around 250,000-500,000 people die of ordinary seasonal flu every year. It was the newspapers that hyped up the threat to an unwieldy extent, with talk of mass graves and the conclusion of life as we know it. It later emerged that the doctors advising the WHO were in the pay of the pharmaceutical companies, who had developed a swine flu vaccine and were keen to market it. So, the threat was real nevertheless the media and the WHO blew it up into a scare which was not merely panic-inducing, but also disrepectful to people who did die.
And while we're about them of individuals in the pay of pharmas, here's Andrew Wakefield's scandalous piece of research into the results of the MMR, released in 1998. Allegedly funded by the makers of the single vaccines and high in procedural issues, Wakefield et al's report showed a link involving the MMR combined vaccine and autism. It caused panic and a drop in vaccination rates, which still affects public health today. The Wakefield report has been discredited – not least by ten of the paper's authors – but celebrities like Jenny McCarthy continue to fight the anti-vaccination cause, leading diseases like measles to flourish still in non-vaccinating communities.
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