In your Face(book)

Much like a virus, social networks can spread commentary. Sometimes the topic can mutate, too.

What’s a media frenzy without social networks like Myspace and Facebook? The RN&R went to our Facebook homepage (Reno NewsandReview) and Group page (Reno News & Review), and asked for thoughts on the announcement that swine flu had arrived in Reno. We also asked: Do you think the media is sensationalizing the story? What are you doing to protect yourself against swine flu? Finally, we added the question, does anyone think having a confirmed case of swine flu in Reno will affect tourism? The responses were mostly given on April 30 and May 1.

Olivia Gobert-Hicks: Totally over sensationalized. Being aware, proactive and on alert? Absolutely a reasonable course of action. Wash your hands, cover your face, and if you get symptoms call a doctor (don’t go into an office and infect everyone). But a pig flu pandemic? Please.

Mylan Hawkins: It is important to remember that approximately 36,000 people die every year from the flu in the United States. Any type of flu is especially dangerous for the very young, elderly or people with diabetes and other chronic health conditions. New strains of flu can reach epidemic and then pandemic proportions very rapidly, and because a virus can mutate fairly easily, developing a vaccine against a particular flu strain takes time. So far this new flu seems to respond to readily available anti-viral medication. But should it become resistant that could pose very serious problems. It goes without saying that everyone should take all of the recommended precautions. This is not a time to panic. It is a time to be aware and prepare.

Kasey Christensen: I think the true danger of swine flu lies in the fear that the media spreads with its over-sensationalized stories. This fear then turns every sore throat, every cough, every fever into swine flu. Is there a possibility that you or someone you know may get it? Possibly, but very unlikely. According to the CDC there have been 109 confirmed cases in the entire United States. Only one of those 109 has died. I believe that the fear is what we should be working to prevent. Educate yourself, take precaution, but don’t let the media infect you with its dirty little thoughts of fear.

Allison Tracy: Reno, take a deep breath, and relax. You’ve had one case. I live in New York, where the world hasn’t come to an end even though there have been a few more confirmed cases. I haven’t started wearing a face mask (though some have), and I don’t wash my hands any more than usual. And I’m OK. So freaking out may be a bit premature. If you’re really concerned, go to It will answer all your questions.

Robin Schultz: Frankly I am disgusted by the attention this is getting, What about these stats? The estimate is that 700,000 prison inmates will be released this year. More than half of them are mentally ill. How does society cope with that massive exodus? What happens to mentally ill offenders when they leave prison with a bus ticket, $75 in cash and two weeks’ worth of medication? With so little support and guidance available to them, about 65 percent of mentally ill offenders are re-arrested. The state of Ohio has only one—one—only one house that is there specifically for mentally ill people released from prison for long term care. I thought we were in a depression.

Margaret Kerlin: We think this is a conspiracy to get everyone’s mind off the horrible economy—either that or the media has gotten bored with reporting on the economy, and they need another newsworthy story to dwell on—so let’s create a little hysteria in the nation/world. The district [in Arizona] where I teach has had one case, and they have closed the school for seven days. The child had recovered and was even back in school before they closed the doors for a week. Like someone said, “We don’t close schools when there is a case of lice or strep—or even the other flu.” People get sick all the time. What is the deal?