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As someone who lived first-hand through the effected H1N1 pandemic (like so many others), I was quite surprised to find this bit of knowledge from the section entitled "Covering Risk". (http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/Microsites/NiemanGuideToCoveringPande...)

Throughout all the hype and sensational reporting, including ministry urgings, that led to dramatic images of long lineups and facemasks, I always maintained a level of serenity based on the small amount of research I did on sites such as the CDC's and others. These sites seemed unanimous in maintaining that although different demographics were at risk, all signs indicate that the actual "death toll" would be lower than the typical seasonal influenza. And I was right.

What this article sheds light on, however, was that there are other factors that should have gotten my concern up, other factors that journalists could have been hyping that were actually far more dire than the threat of illness or even death itself: that by the numbers, there was a substantial risk of basic infrastructure collapse. That is, shortage of essential workers in key sectors due to illness, thus making things like hospitals, water treatment and hydro generation impossible, even though those workers may fully recover within weeks, their illnesses may cause the "critical mass" necessary to operate such infrastructure to drop past the point of no return.

As such, it would seem that the sensationalistic journalists were actually doing us all a favour, even though I believe it would be unintentionally: by focusing the public hype ("outrage") on something that's not actually that dangerous ("hazard"), they kept attention away from that which could have actually been far worse.

Imagine that.

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