The swine flu emergency department: the relationship between media attention for the swine flu and registrations in an emergency medicine unit

Prehospital and Disaster Medicine
Sara NelissenJan Van den Bulck


When the world is faced with a new potential pandemic outbreak, the media report heavily about it. Media are an important disseminator of health threat information. This study examined potential media effects during the 2009 outbreak of A/H1N1 influenza. To examine the relationship between media reports of the swine flu and self-registrations in an emergency department (ED) of a tertiary hospital in Flanders, Belgium. All articles concerning swine flu published in seven Flemish newspapers were selected during the biggest flu peak in Belgium. This number was compared with the number of patients who presented themselves with a self-diagnosis of swine flu symptoms during the same time frame. The Pearson's correlation coefficient was selected to determine the relationship. The cross-correlation function determined the direction of this relationship. A strong correlation was found between the number of potential patients (n = 308) and the number of articles in the Flemish press (n = 1657). The number of patients was the leading indicator; increases in the volume of written press followed increases in the number of patients. Media reporting is extensive when a new infectious disease breaks out and intensifies when it is feared that p...Continue Reading


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