Swine flu-HIV could devastate human race: worst story yet?

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There’s considerable discussion on the listserv of the Association of Health Care Journalists about this UPI story – with the above headline – being the worst yet on flu coverage.

Among the comments journalists posted:

• The paragraphs about HIV looks like someone stuck it in there, as it bears little resemblance to the rest of the story.

• It says “Health authorities are particularly worried that the capability to mutate already exhibited by the virus could eventually let it combine with the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS.” Then it gives a sentence comparing that to the Spanish flu, and that’s the end of the possible “mixing” with HIV. No sources on this at all, only the very ambiguous “health authorities.”

• It throws out completely unsubstantiated data with no source. There is also no background info on that–even in the absence of resources, it gives no background on why anyone would think that it could combine with HIV, or how that could even happen. Or what makes this flu strain so special that it would have a special affinity for HIV.

• Reuters uses some pretty loose language too. I think they’re both overinterpreting the WHO statement, which discusses the comorbidity of the two infections, not some apocalyptic biological combination.

• There is no scientific basis for such speculation, or evidence that it has occurred in the decades that both viruses have been around.

• The speculation makes about as much sense as saying that because dogs and cats are both pets, some day they might combine to produce a dat or cog.

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May 8, 2009 at 12:01 am

While being a serious post, your last bullet point had me laughing at my computer.
Don’t forget dots and cags!