What is the Right Amount of Swine Flu Coverage?

Dr. Hans Rosling (Gapminder) has posted a short, but effective video comparing the coverage of Swine Flu to a more constant killer like Tuberculosis. He decries the fact that Swine flu has generated many orders of magnitude more coverage per death than Tuberculosis.

tuberculosis WHO data

Dr. Rosling has a point. The media could be said to be disproportionately covering Swine Flu. However, how can the media not be expected to cover Swine Flu? It is new. It is spreading quickly. It is something that will potentially impact the daily lives of their readers (and themselves). Tuberculosis, while on the rise (see the chart to the right), is a known, is relatively contained and there is a vaccine.

Which should the media focus on? Which would you expect them to? While the media coverage maybe overblown (and I questioned putting this post up at all) I think it is understandable to want to track this potential new threat closely.

[Tuberculosis Growth Chart via Wikipedia]

[via Information Aesthetics]


I realized that this post was incomplete without checking some trend data to see how people’s interest compare. Here’s the Wikirank comparison chart:

wikirank swine flu tb

And the Google Trends comparison:

gogole trends h1n1, swine flu tb

For “fun” I included H1N1 to see if the name change was working. Based on search volume it does not seem to have been effective use of re-marketing dollars.

It’s clear that the news is driving a lot of interest in Swine Flu and that there is very little residual interest in Tuberculosis. Whether this is the tail wagging the dog remains to be seen.