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CNN sensationalizes TB news story  0

Posted on May 31st, 2007. About News and Politics.

I know this comes as quite a shock, but it is possible that CNN may have sensationalized a news story. Yes, it’s true – please, calm yourselves from the shock.

A man with a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis, who flew internationally this past week – therefore, causing quite a stir as authorities attempt to identify people who may have been exposed. This afternoon, NPR informed me on my drive home that this man flew with his fiancee to Europe to get married. While in Europe, he had a chest x-ray done as part of a workup for a rib injury, and it was discovered incidentally on the film that he had a lung nodule concerning for tuberculosis. A workup revealed that he had the disease – otherwise, at least according to NPR (who seemed to have done a very thorough job of investigating this story) he has been asymptomatic. He was cautioned not to travel, but proceeded to fly back to the US via Canada, and was later detained once he reached Atlanta. He was not sent to Atlanta because the CDC is there – he lives there. What is even more intriguing, his now father-in-law works for the CDC, researching tuberculosis, prompting questions of whether this was the route for exposure to an unusual strain. One of the physicians treating him in Colorado (he has been transferred for further care) was actually on NPR, stating that she expected him to make a full recovery.

So, with this in mind, I’m thinking – okay, it’s probably unlikely that others on the plane contracted the disease from him. He’s asymptomatic – does not have a cough, so it’s likely not going to be transferred to others. Wow, everyone must be breathing a sigh of relief.

Then, I saw this on CNN’s homepage:

“The man infected with potentially fatal tuberculosis is an Atlanta, Georgia, lawyer whose father-in-law works at the Centers for Disease Control.”

Okay – I’m not suggesting that NPR is the perfect, all-knowing, and infallible news agency, or that CNN is totally terrible, but my guess is that CNN has dramatized this a bit. What NPR has reported makes sense – and since he just flew from Europe to North America and no one realized he was sick until after he left the plane, my guess is that he did not appear “potentially fatal” to others. My guess is also that others on the plane are not going to die from being around this man. It does seem that the goal is to instill fear with the “potentially fatal tuberculosis” phrase. ALL tuberculosis is potentially fatal. All INFECTIONS are potentially fatal.

Sometimes I wish the news agencies could report the facts, and leave the editorializing to those of us who can develop our own opinions. Because of coverage such as this, one of my close family members has already expressed her discontent over my travelling to Wisconsin with my baby in August because there are “people with tuberculosis on airplanes.”

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