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Don't panic, but there's a serious shortage of panic this summer

I’ve been noticing the calm, level-headed way the media has reportedthe West Nile virus this summer, and I’d just like to say I’m sorry.

I’ve been noticing the calm, level-headed way the media has reported the West Nile virus this summer, and I’d just like to say I’m sorry.



I don’t know what’s come over us.



Unless I missed a memo, we in the media (especially TV) are supposed to breathlessly cover this as a burgeoning health crisis. It’s just the way things are done. Where are the slow-motion closeups of a suspicious-looking skeeter? The catchy title like Mosquitopocalypse? The news anchor solemnly asking, “How worried should we be?” as if worrying would be useful.



Instead, all I’ve seen are level-headed reminders that since the ‘90s West Nile has been found from Nova Scotia to B.C. and that precautions should be taken against a small but real risk.



The coverage has been a reasonable reflection of reality.



So, again, I apologize.



Because if my years in media have taught me one thing, it’s that the important thing now is to PANIC. This was the time-proven journalistic method used with Mad Cow, SARS and H1N1. I guess West Nile’s been around long enough that people are getting all “rational.” Well, I can’t let that happen.



Because if it did, we in the media would be stuck writing about softwood lumber or debt ceilings or, God help me, Brad Pitt. If I have to write one more word about a Beckham baby or the latest crop of orphans that Brangelina are scooping up with a backhoe, I may scream.



And you, gentle reader? You’d be forced to read it. So keep in mind we are doing you a favour when we warn you about:



West Nile and You: Partners in Death — a Q&A you and your family need to read (if you love them).



Q: How can I tell if West Nile is in my area?

A: Many wild birds spread the virus, and their deaths are a good harbinger of the disease, which leads to this easy-to-remember West Nile saying: See a live bird? Kill it. See a dead bird? Panic.



Q: What if I get it?

A: Symptoms often include headache, body aches and skin rash. If you come down with any of these symptoms, kiss a crow and see if it dies.



Q: Anything else I can do?

A: Go about your daily routine, but remain vigilant. Ask your political leaders to establish mosquito no-fly zones. Watch for large swarms flying in a skull-and-crossbones formation. Wear burqas or Stormtrooper costumes. Reassure your children by showing them films where humans reign victorious over insects, such as Arachnophobia and Them! Pray daily.



Q: How worried should I be?

A: We’ll tell you exactly how worried, right after this.

 
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