Catchy titles betray truth behind news

By Anita Tedaldi: Cannon Connections columnist

I’m a serious hypochondriac. Googling rare diseases while breaking out in a cold sweat is an every day occurrence for me.

Forget Yoga and Pilates, hypochondria is how I shed the pounds.

It’s mandatory that I read the health section of dozens of news outlets. CNN is usually my first stop, so a couple of nights ago, I read the article titled, “Report: Swine flu could cause up to 90,000 deaths”. By the story’s fourth paragraph I grabbed the phone to call one of the centers doing trial vaccines to enroll myself and my kids, because I just knew that was our only chance to survive the impending epidemic and decimation of world population.

Flashing in front of my eyes, I saw images of people dropping like flies on the streets and in schools across the United States, while masked men in moon suits grabbed the contorting bodies, and women and children screamed in horror.

I was so freaked out that I went to the source cited in the CNN article, a document from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology titled “ Report to the president on U.S. preparations for the 2009 H1N1 Influenza”

The swine flu is serious business, but it’s not the doom and gloom scenario that I imagined because we don’t know how things are going to play out.

I understand the need to come up with catchy titles. I’m probably going to read an article claiming that Anna Paquin is naked in True Blood, which was one of the most popular pieces around the Internet this past week.

I’m not comparing Anna Paquin to the swine flu. I’m pointing out that oftentimes outrageous headlines or worse case scenarios articles slant information to one side. I guess all writers do this to an extent, there’s often an angle, but I think that when one reports about public health issues and information that can potentially spread panic it should be given in a careful manner — lest they give the hypochondriacs like me a heart attack.

I don’t mean to diminish the seriousness of the swine flu. H1N1 behaves like an ass. We don’t know much about what the virus will do, but we know it has killed young people, and it spreads easily.

The World Health Organization has declared it a global pandemic in June of this year.

I may have been the only one who worried about the article, and CNN talked about flu prevention in the second part of the piece, but I just felt that the writer could have mentioned that many people fared well with H1N1 and that symptoms are often times milder than with the regular flu.

Sometimes it seems that the obsession with bad news, catastrophic scenarios and ridiculous outcomes dominates the spread of important information like flu prevention, which becomes secondary when fear takes over.

So maybe warn but not freak us out? I’m freaked out enough on my own.

Today I have a strange budding cough (I think) and I will Google the symptoms of swine flu for the 100th time.