Sunday, 24 May 2009

better foolish than dead

Examples are plenty of people who are not scared and resulted in the
loss of their lives. The Tsunami and SARS epidemic.

If they had been extra careful, lives would have been saved.

It may come to a case where too careful will also cause deaths as the
case of the false tsunami at Kota Kinabalu that killed two elderly

SARS is treated as a false alarm in quoted article, but it led to
large losses of lives because people were too careless initially. Once
people panic and initiate the correct response to this disease, its
fatality rate had gone down completely to much less than normal flu
that keep on killing millions every year.

SARS is much more deadly than normal flu, but how could it be possible
that SARS kill less than normal flu? The simple answer is because
people treat normal flu lightly because of its low fatality rate,
whereas the much higher fatality rate of SARS made people more

Swine flu is not as fatal as SARS or Bird Flu but it is up to 4 times
more deadly than normal flu, killing people in the ages 5-50 that
normally will not die due to normal flu, despite their illnessess,
such as pregnancy(?).

If you treat Swine Flu as you treat normal flu, it will cause more
unnecessary deaths and sufferings. Worse, it is more infectios than
normal flu and even Spanish Flu of 1918. Untreated and monitored, its
fatality rate is worse than Spanish Flu so just imagine the havoc that
it can create in developing nations. This current Swine Flu is bad
because it appears to be infections even in warm weather compared to
normal flu and even Spanish Flu.,0,5538525.story

Twitter trackers follow public reaction to swine flu
A survey on the micro-blogging site offers a rare look into people's
thinking during a potentially dangerous outbreak. The quick drop-off
in interest troubles researchers.
By Rebecca Cole
May 24, 2009
Reporting from Washington -- As two Stanford University researchers
described their experience watching public reactions in the initial
days of the swine flu outbreak, it sounded like one of those nature
films in which tiny fish dart back and forth in perfect unison.

The researchers were tracking thousands of Twitter posts pouring into
an Internet site. With every twist and turn of the flu reports, the
researchers noticed, the mass of tweets swung this way and that as if
they were one, even though most of the individual Twitterers had no
contact with one another outside of the website.

It was a rare window into the public psyche amid an explosion of
information about a potentially dangerous disease outbreak.

The researchers -- James Holland Jones, an associate professor of
anthropology, and Marcel Salathe, a biologist -- had devised an online
survey to gauge people's anxiety about the H1N1 virus as it unfolded.

Posted early in the outbreak, the survey generated about 8,000
responses in a matter of days, but as doomsday predictions did not
come to pass, responses dropped off -- a development that worried

"Swine flu is still out there and will be back next flu season," he
said. "We've dodged the pandemic for now, but I think it's a very open
question whether we have really dodged it."

The shifting reactions to H1N1 suggested that as the country has
become more wired, people may move from indifference to anxiety and
back in the blink of an eye.

After flu cases in Mexico soared at the end of April, U.S. government
officials took to the airwaves, declaring a public health emergency as
the World Health Organization raised the global threat level to5 --
the second-most severe.

With little known about the virus, people's reactions were immediate:
Travel to Mexico fell dramatically, pork-belly futures collapsed, and
protective masks flew off the shelves. Mexico City virtually shut down
-- closing gyms, restaurants, movie theaters and other nonessential
businesses -- costing the already teetering economy $2.2 billion in 10
days, according to the nation's finance secretary.

But as the number of deaths in Mexico attributed to the disease
plateaued at about 60 -- and as widespread U.S. fatalities failed to
materialize -- the media coverage backed off, causing public interest
to flag and some experts to fear that the early warnings may make it
harder to get the public's attention in the future.

"We've cried wolf one too many times here," said Michael Osterholm,
director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at
the University of Minnesota.

"I actually think this situation has set us back. It really is two
strikes, and now we're almost out," he said, referring to initial
panic and then loss of interest in recent outbreaks such as SARS and
avian flu.

More than 4 in 10 people followed news about the H1N1 outbreak very
closely, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Even in a week
filled with news of President Obama's first 100 days in office and
Chrysler filing for bankruptcy, attention to news of the swine flu was
so great, Pew found, that it became one of the top stories of the year
to date.

Osterholm said the media had to be a crucial part of how health and
government officials communicate during such an event. "We need to
take a step back and see what we can learn from it -- how we should do
it in the future," he said.

Initial public reaction to H1N1 was way out of proportion to the
magnitude of the disease, said Richard Thaler, professor of behavioral
science and economics at the University of Chicago.

"Psychologists say we have two brain systems, the old and the new,"
Thaler said. "The old one is fast and emotional. When we react by
jumping in response to a snake, that's old. The new one is analytic.
But often we don't get past the first emotional system."

The country is a bit on edge, Thaler said, and people on edge are less
likely to react in a rational way. "It's hard to imagine a time when
so much was going [on] on so many different fronts," he said.

He added that the Internet "is bad enough," but that the "velocity of
rumor and gossip" had increased exponentially with Twitter.

Dan Ariely, author of "Predictably Irrational," invokes the concept of
learned helplessness to describe how people behave when conditioned by
a series of seemingly random, harmful events.

"When we have all these unexplained shocks, we just do what we're
told," said Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at MIT.

When people don't know how much risk to take in stressful situations,
Ariely said, they look around to see what others are doing. But "if
other people are doing foolish things," he said, many times "we do it

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