(not so) KILLER FUNGUS! and Bad Reporting.

  • #1
1,477
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Here is an example of news meant to terrify...

http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/04/22/killer.fungus.pacific.northwest/index.html

I love the "small print" caveat that in fact, most people shouldn't be concerned, but um... I'm guessing that the "KILLER FUNUGS" title is likely going to go a long way towards scaring people before they get there.

Truly, this is just absurd.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Evo
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Yeah, that's pretty bad.
 
  • #3
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CNN.com has really started tanking. I've read a few really stupid and non-news stories over the past month.
 
  • #4
1,477
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CNN.com has really started tanking. I've read a few really stupid and non-news stories over the past month.

@Evo + Greg: I know... I'm not sure what to make of it... is this willful, or the product of some transition in management? Really, this article is genuinely irresponsible.
 
  • #5
Hepth
Gold Member
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"Experts stress that even people near the epicenter of the outbreak should not be unduly concerned." While news agencies stress that even people on the other side of the nation should worry about this genetically mutated highly virulent tropical KILLER FUNGUS!

But it's in good hands (a grad student :) ) and the "killer" attribute is a statistically sound description as about 25% of all 18 case studies were fatal. (I assume that means 4 people)...
 
  • #6
1,477
1
"Experts stress that even people near the epicenter of the outbreak should not be unduly concerned." While news agencies stress that even people on the other side of the nation should worry about this genetically mutated highly virulent tropical KILLER FUNGUS!

But it's in good hands (a grad student :) ) and the "killer" attribute is a statistically sound description as about 25% of all 18 case studies were fatal. (I assume that means 4 people)...

Yeah... to quote: "We is dumb... dumb as hell." (News Motto of the 21st Century) :biggrin:
 
  • #7
rhody
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What makes this troubling, at least to me is that other news organizations parrot and regurgitate it as well, example: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/fatal-fungus-sparks-fear-worry/story?id=10438475" [Broken], although they put a less urgent spin on the story.

I long ago stopped listening/reading MSNBC for serious balanced and responsible news, and to a large extent CNN as well.

While making this post at 8:50 am, ABC was reporting this story 13 minutes ago, so fierce competition for exposure is part of the motivation as well.

Rhody... :uhh:
 
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  • #8
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What makes this troubling, at least to me is that other news organizations parrot and regurgitate it as well, example: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/fatal-fungus-sparks-fear-worry/story?id=10438475" [Broken], although they put a less urgent spin on the story.

I long ago stopped listening/reading MSNBC for serious balanced and responsible news, and to a large extent CNN as well.

While making this post at 8:50 am, ABC was reporting this story 13 minutes ago, so fierce competition for exposure is part of the motivation as well.

Rhody... :uhh:

Less urgent, but now people will be guinely confused to an even greater degree. What really cooks my bacon is that this reflects on the scientific community, even if it's the poor reporting that is the real issue. :grumpy:
 
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  • #9
Hepth
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Sometimes though, I have to blame the public as well. If you're actually concerned enough by the title to read the article, you should read the ENTIRE article, and thus get to the part where it says its actually not a big deal. The problem lies in people who read the first paragraph, then cancel their tickets to Portland because they're afraid of catching it at a restaurant and bringing it back to their hometown/etc.
While the press shares the blame for a lack of responsible reporting, the fraction of the public that is misled by these articles also share the blame for habitually skimming the news and making strong assumptions based on little or no fact and thus refusing to think for themselves.

We can't treat the general population as children, regardless of their behavior.
 
  • #10
rhody
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Why does this story not die ? Can someone explain a purely technological reason for it ?

http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/04/22/killer.fungus.pacific.northwest/" [Broken]

Is it because google shows the most popular (hits) and with no new news that is getting more attention, bubble this to the top again ?

P.S.

This is a bit off topic, not much however, have any of you ever seen usually early am time, a top story on google only to have it disappear forever in less than 10 minutes of being posted. I have a number of times, and the next time I see such an example, I will so a screen capture (with the time as proof) and post it in General Discussion to prove that I am in fact NOT CRAZY. It usually is about some controversial topic. Is this merely Google's internal Quality Assurance Department busily at work to prevent lawsuits, etc...

Rhody...
 
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  • #11
1,167
9
What is really bad is the people who are even slightly phobic, really do get scared. And their does not seem to be a way to calm them down.
 
  • #12
1,477
1
Why does this story not die ? Can someone explain a purely technological reason for it ?

http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/04/22/killer.fungus.pacific.northwest/" [Broken]

Is it because google shows the most popular (hits) and with no new news that is getting more attention, bubble this to the top again ?

P.S.

This is a bit off topic, not much however, have any of you ever seen usually early am time, a top story on google only to have it disappear forever in less than 10 minutes of being posted. I have a number of times, and the next time I see such an example, I will so a screen capture (with the time as proof) and post it in General Discussion to prove that I am in fact NOT CRAZY. It usually is about some controversial topic. Is this merely Google's internal Quality Assurance Department busily at work to prevent lawsuits, etc...

Rhody...

Oh, I've seen them alright. It pisses me off beyond all belief that people still see Goggle as somehow, "benevolent". I would love to start captures of them.

As for the rest... I don't know, beyond the fact that hypatia is right that perhpas it's a cycle of fear feeding itself?
 
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  • #13
Astronuc
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Of course, CNN and other media are going to grab attention with such a headline. That is in order to get people to read or use their product, so they can advertise.

The article does state ""Overall it's a pretty low threat, and it's still uncommon in the area, but as the range of the organism expands and the number of cases increases accordingly, it's becoming more of a concern," he says." So it is important to read the entire article.

Nevertheless, I would prefer less sensational headlines.


Now the particular fungus is not a signficant threat - yet. But perhaps it could be come significant. The concern is that people who are exposed may not get early treatment, or doctors may miss it, because they are not looking for it. At what point does it become a significant health issue - when 100 people die, or 1000. Then folks would say, why didn't the so-and-so's do something earlier.

We have a significant population decline of bats in the NE. It appears that a fungus from Europe may have been inadvertently introduced into the US. The death rate is 95% or higher for some bat populations, and maybe close to 100% in some populations according to what I heard this morning.

One certainly should not be alarmed, but one should be cautious when visiting those areas where the fungus has infected individuals. HIV/AIDS certainly got out of control before people started taking it seriously.
 
  • #14
rhody
Gold Member
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Of course, CNN and other media are going to grab attention with such a headline. That is in order to get people to read or use their product, so they can advertise.

The article does state ""Overall it's a pretty low threat, and it's still uncommon in the area, but as the range of the organism expands and the number of cases increases accordingly, it's becoming more of a concern," he says." So it is important to read the entire article.

Nevertheless, I would prefer less sensational headlines.


Now the particular fungus is not a signficant threat - yet. But perhaps it could be come significant. The concern is that people who are exposed may not get early treatment, or doctors may miss it, because they are not looking for it. At what point does it become a significant health issue - when 100 people die, or 1000. Then folks would say, why didn't the so-and-so's do something earlier.

We have a significant population decline of bats in the NE. It appears that a fungus from Europe may have been inadvertently introduced into the US. The death rate is 95% or higher for some bat populations, and maybe close to 100% in some populations according to what I heard this morning.

One certainly should not be alarmed, but one should be cautious when visiting those areas where the fungus has infected individuals. HIV/AIDS certainly got out of control before people started taking it seriously.

Well said and on point Astronuc,

However, no one has addressed the issue of why Google for whatever reason keeps bubbling this up to the top and making it a top ten new worthy story. I want some kind of explanation here and am hoping the vast exposure it gets on PF coincidentally leads to someone or someone who knows someone who works for Google to explain it to me, that's all. New news to add to what has been released I can see, but from what I scanned quickly it was the same story put out three days ago.

Don't they, Google and CNN realize that too much exposure can backfire, as I stated earlier, I don't watch/read/listen to MSNBC anymore or CNN for that matter, I find it sad that Google feels it has to regurgitate CNN's Newsfeed.

Edit:

I went to google news precisely because they didn't seem to parrot MSNBC and CNN, I guess I was wrong.

Rhody...
 
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  • #15
1,477
1
Of course, CNN and other media are going to grab attention with such a headline. That is in order to get people to read or use their product, so they can advertise.

The article does state ""Overall it's a pretty low threat, and it's still uncommon in the area, but as the range of the organism expands and the number of cases increases accordingly, it's becoming more of a concern," he says." So it is important to read the entire article.

Nevertheless, I would prefer less sensational headlines.


Now the particular fungus is not a signficant threat - yet. But perhaps it could be come significant. The concern is that people who are exposed may not get early treatment, or doctors may miss it, because they are not looking for it. At what point does it become a significant health issue - when 100 people die, or 1000. Then folks would say, why didn't the so-and-so's do something earlier.

We have a significant population decline of bats in the NE. It appears that a fungus from Europe may have been inadvertently introduced into the US. The death rate is 95% or higher for some bat populations, and maybe close to 100% in some populations according to what I heard this morning.

One certainly should not be alarmed, but one should be cautious when visiting those areas where the fungus has infected individuals. HIV/AIDS certainly got out of control before people started taking it seriously.

...And yet people are unconcerned with the 150,000 ATV accidents per year which lead to injury...

I really do think the media bears some moral responsiblity in this... they don't accurately prortray MOST threats, so this doesn't strike me as terribly useful. Lets be honest here... they're calling it "Killer Fungus", not "Potentially Lethal Fungus May Pose Long-Term Risk for Region". It's pure sensationalism, without a mote of responsibility.
 
  • #16
CRGreathouse
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I went to google news precisely because they didn't seem to parrot MSNBC and CNN, I guess I was wrong.

All Google News does is parrot. It's just a search of existing news, they don't have a news team of their own or anything like that. A good fraction of it is just basic reporting from the wire.
 
  • #17
1,477
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All Google News does is parrot. It's just a search of existing news, they don't have a news team of their own or anything like that. A good fraction of it is just basic reporting from the wire.

So, the priority is set by how often people search for the story? Now THAT is truly disturbing... a lot of people must be very concerned. Hell... people just have no way of casually assessing risk on the best days, but this makes it impossible for most!
 
  • #18
rhody
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So lets try to be productive then, what News do you listen to, watch, read (on-line), that for the most part does not rely on the lowest common denominator ?

I think "BBC News" for the most part qualifies, anyone disagree, or have other choices ?

I get BBC News on-line only.

Rhody...
 
  • #19
Astronuc
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I listen to NPR, BBC, and browse the NY Times, CS Monitor, and others.

For a health concern like Cryptococcus gattii, I'd research CDC or NIH. It is considered an emerging infectious disease.

Cryptococcus gattii Dispersal Mechanisms, British Columbia, Canada
http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/13/1/51.htm

Spread of Cryptococcus gattii in British Columbia, Canada, and Detection in the Pacific Northwest, USA
http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/13/1/42.htm

Epidemiology of Cryptococcus gattii, British Columbia, Canada, 1999–2007
http://www.cdc.gov/eid/content/16/2/251.htm


It is something to be monitored.

The concern is that, until now, it was considered a tropical disease, but now it seems that it flourishes in a temperate environment, and is a concern much like West Nile Virus or equine encephalitis.
 
  • #20
Evo
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Actually it's not considered a threat. They said this fungus has changed from the original one in British Columbia.

At a news conference on Friday, Oregon public health officials sought to reassure the public that the risk of infection from C. gattii is extremely small. State epidemiologist Katrina Hedberg, M.D., M.P.H., said that officials have identified a little more than 50 cases of infection in people in Oregon, Washington, and California since 2004, the majority of which occurred in people with compromised immune systems. About 10 of the cases proved fatal, she noted.

"This is an extremely rare condition, and it's also rare that people who have been exposed to this particular fungus end up getting disease from it," Dr. Hedberg said. Although physicians and the public should be aware of the fungus and the symptoms of infection, she said, "this is never going to be a very common condition."
 
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  • #21
52
1
So lets try to be productive then, what News do you listen to, watch, read (on-line), that for the most part does not rely on the lowest common denominator ?

I think "BBC News" for the most part qualifies, anyone disagree, or have other choices ?

I get BBC News on-line only.

Rhody...

You can't rely on any one, single source of news. They are all prone to their biases.
 
  • #22
1,477
1
I listen to NPR, BBC, and browse the NY Times, CS Monitor, and others.

For a health concern like Cryptococcus gattii, I'd research CDC or NIH. It is considered an emerging infectious disease.

Cryptococcus gattii Dispersal Mechanisms, British Columbia, Canada
http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/13/1/51.htm

Spread of Cryptococcus gattii in British Columbia, Canada, and Detection in the Pacific Northwest, USA
http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/13/1/42.htm

Epidemiology of Cryptococcus gattii, British Columbia, Canada, 1999–2007
http://www.cdc.gov/eid/content/16/2/251.htm


It is something to be monitored.

The concern is that, until now, it was considered a tropical disease, but now it seems that it flourishes in a temperate environment, and is a concern much like West Nile Virus or equine encephalitis.

Remember... as our climate changes, so does what contitutes a "tropical" disease. That, or it's a mutant. Either way... I like your list of news orgs. I'd add Fox News... because it pays to know the delusions others participate in.

EDIT: @Evo: Hmmm, that would be good news. It would seem to also indicate that it's a mutation which allowed it to change locale, rather than effects of climate change. That is VERY good news.
 
  • #23
OmCheeto
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I've always wondered why there weren't more killer lung fungi. It strikes me as the perfect environment; warm, moist, and you don't really notice it until you're almost dead.

I do appreciate you all keeping me up on the local news. I killed my TV a while back and didn't hear about this until today:

http://www.katu.com/news/91992434.html" [Broken]
Apr 23, 2010
PORTLAND, Ore. - A new study about a potentially deadly fungus in the Pacific Northwest sparked so much fear across the region this week that the Oregon Health Department wanted to get the message out Friday that the average healthy person has little to worry about.

Does anyone remember the last mold scare? I referred to it as the "rat turd dust virus" way back when. I just discovered it is also a mold. Aspergillus.
http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/300341-overview"

Fungal pneumonia is an infectious process in the lungs caused by any one or a combination of endemic or opportunistic fungi. Endemic fungal pathogens (eg, Histoplasma ..blah blah only Monique can read these names...) cause infection in both healthy and immunocompromised hosts in defined geographic locations of the Americas and around the world. Opportunistic fungal organisms (eg, Candida species, Aspergillus species, Mucor species, Cryptococcus neoformans) tend to cause pneumonia in patients with congenital or acquired defects in their host defenses.

Causes
* Workers or farmers with heavy exposure to bird, bat, or rodent droppings and other animal excreta in endemic areas are predisposed to acquire any of the endemic fungal pneumonias.

hence my; rat turd dust (now) fungal pneumonia pathogen.
 
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  • #24
OmCheeto
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Weird. I've had the symptoms of C. Gattii for 2 and a half months now. So have many people around here. And not a single one of them has had a diagnosis as to what is wrong with them. One person I know has had the same symptoms as I for the same period. He's been prescribed antibiotics and steroid injections, with no effect. I haven't been to the doctor.

Though none of us has died, yet. So I'd say the Gattii fungus* , if we really all have it, is probably only fatal for immunocompromised people. Though it is quite annoying.

http://www.plospathogens.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.ppat.1002205" [Broken]

C. gattii infects both healthy individuals and HIV/AIDS patients and is causing an outbreak in the Pacific Northwest. Often, Cryptococcus is not identified at the species level, and C. gattii may therefore be more common than appreciated.
Published: September 1, 2011
bolding mine

*genotype VGIIc here in Oregon. There are apparently lots of strains.
 
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