No one knows if vaccines such as Tamiflu and Relenza would provide the public the necessary protection from a possible bird flu pandemic.
With uncertainty surrounding the subject, it’s imperative not to forget what the most important medicine for concerned citizens really is.
A healthy dose of information.
“Nobody has ever seen a flu pandemic evolve, so bird flu could either be the biggest medical story since AIDS, or the biggest blast of hot air since the swine flu,” said Daniel DeNoon, senior medical writer for WebMD.
For DeNoon, who has covered bird flu since 1997, crafting his award-winning article “Scientists in Desperate Race With Bird Flu,” was a balancing act, presenting the facts and the testimony of experts without instilling an unnecessary sense of fear in his readers.
“In the race to get ready for it, we’re closer to the starting line than the finish,” DeNoon said. “I think our bird flu coverage helps maintain the level of public concern needed to support preparation efforts.
“At the same time, by being fact-based, it does not fan the flames of sensationalism.”
“This story is emblematic of Dan’s skill,” said Sean Swint, editorial director of WebMD. “It was a one-day breaking news story based on a major journal report stating how lethal bird flu is, but Dan’s knowledge of the topic and use of appropriate sources broadened the story to put the real human risk of bird flu in perspective.”
Putting the piece together under deadline pressure gave DeNoon added pleasure.
“There’s nothing quite like deadline writing,” DeNoon said. “In the few hours available it’s very hard to get facts and reasoned opinions from experts who matter, and then weave these opinions and facts into a meaningful narrative. And when you’ve done it — well it’s very gratifying for a minute or two. Then there’s tomorrow’s story. What could be better?”