Supergene Causes Death, Media Panic

A new gene has been appearing in potentially deadly diseases since 2009 that interacts with other strains of bacteria and mutates them into a new hybrid disease which cannot be cured with antibiotics, including those used currently to treat antibiotic resistant staph infections.

The disease was first documented in New Delhi, but has since traveled throughout the world, reaching the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands and Pakistan with no sign of slowing its steady march across the world.  With new diseases cropping up all the time, many are wondering if there is more of a threat here than is being reported.  NDM-1 has currently only killed one person, but a mutation has the potential to cause some real problems.

In 2009 the disease didn’t receive much attention as many were obsessing over H1N1 fears, but infected several in Belgium and one case was confirmed dead.  So will this disease overtake society and result in millions of deaths?  Likely not, but the media is already showing signs of this infectious disease infecting the airwaves as well.  It’s important to keep perspective on the previous string of diseases caught on the airwaves leading millions to panic, stocks to tumble, and a select few to reap profits based on the fears of millions.

In 2006, news was repeatedly covered (particularly on slow news days) suggesting that Bird Flu may have become transmittable between humans or mutated to become more deadly.  Though this information was never true, the stories were rarely redacted or corrected later, simply ignored until the next scare suggesting the disease had become more terrifying (and news worthy.)  It’s tempting for many in the media to deal with a disease they have already researched and share a new tidbit of information that may make it a front page story rather than attempt to research a whole new topic.  As a result, many stations became addicted to the horror story of H5N1 and it received more coverage than some of the iconic murders also reaching the airwaves during that time.

Then in 2009 the Bird Flu was replaced by Swine Flu and the vaccine controversy.  As doctors erred on the side of caution, not wanting to downplay a potential disaster, many were discovered who would talk about high death tolls projected and the need for a vaccine.  And yet the aspect of the story that was rarely or never covered was the fact that Swine Flu actually had a lower death rate than the traditional seasonal flu.  Instead attention was paid to the fact that it “killed otherwise healthy adults in their prime.”  A vaccine program was innitiated and millions of dollars were made by those supplying the vaccines.  Later the news item was the potential danger of taking the vaccine that had been recommended so prominently on these very news stations.

Will NDM-1 be a similar story?  Will the picture painted of the disease be that of a deadly super bacteria that doctors are helpless to treat only able to be cured by a single difficult to acquire antibacterial concoction?  It’s important to keep an eye on the independent statistics on cases such as this.