Worried that you’ve already seen the last of “reckless fake-u-mentary ratings grabs” trying to milk avian influenza hype for fear and profit? Fear not! The BBC has helpfully stepped in with a new “docu-drama” (read: bad reporting combined with bad acting), with news including this line: “The H5N1 [avian influenza] virus bares a striking resemblance to the influenza pandemic that struck after the First World War, killing 50 million people.”
We’ve covered hype-laden comparisons between the 1918 Spanish flu and the avian flu bug before, but one point is worth restating: One enormous difference between the world of 1918 and the world of 2006 is … the world. That is, in the last eighty-eight years mankind has made a great deal of economic, medical, and scientific progress, making our ability to diagnose, treat, and contain disease far more effective than when we had just signed an armistice with Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Not to be left out, New York newspaper Newsday jumped in this week with another series of comparisons to 1918’s epidemic. The article quotes Michael Greger of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), who takes the opportunity to warn: “We’ve got to stop encouraging the Western model of poultry production elsewhere in the world.” What Newsday doesn’t include, of course, is the fact that HSUS is an animal rights organization committed to ending all consumption of meat, and that HSUS has cited avian flu before as a pretense for new regulations to clamp down on American poultry farmers.