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WHO raises pandemic alert to second-highest level

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Barbara Starr et al, CNN
The World Health Organization raised its pandemic alert to 5, its second-highest level Wednesday, indicating the outbreak of swine flu that originated in Mexico is nearing widespread human infection.

Dr. Margaret Chan, the U.N. agency’s director-general, said the decision mean to raise the alert to 5 on its 6-point scale indicated that all countries should “immediately” activate pandemic preparedness plans.

“This change to a higher phase of alert is a signal to governments, to ministries of health and other ministries, to the pharm industry and the business community that certain actions now should be taken with increased urgency and at an accelerated pace,” Chan said.
(29 April 2009)

Mexican Toddler in U.S. Dies From Swine Flu

Sharon Otterman and Liz Robbins, New York Times
A Mexican toddler who came to the United States with his family to visit relatives in Texas has died in Houston of the swine flu, Texas officials said Wednesday, even as the number of confirmed cases continued to rise in the United States and Europe without additional reports of fatalities.
(29 April 2009)
Round-up of developments.

Swine Flu: Reporting the Story

Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard
Nieman Reports has published a comprehensive resource for journalists about coverage of a pandemic flu. The information comes from a conference held at the Nieman Foundation during the time when the concern about the potential of Avian Flu to evolve into a human flu epidemic was high.

Of particular interest is the experience of journalists at The Associated Press, Reuters and CNN; they pass along valuable information about how their newsrooms prepared to cover flu outbreaks and shared insights about their on-the-ground frontline coverage.

The entire issue: “A Flu Pandemic & the Role of Journalists”

  • In one of the articles, the AP’s Margie Mason, Reuter’s Maggie Fox and CNN’s Christy Feig deliver an honest account of their reporting from the frontlines of Flu and talk about what reporters need to be aware of as they go in.

  • In another, Dori Reissman, Commander, United States Public Health Service, and Sandro Galea, Director of the Global Health Center at the University of Michigan, provide an excellent summary of what we know about human responses to outbreaks.

  • In other articles, Michael Osterholm and Marc Lipsitch talk about what will happen if the current strain changes into a more deadly one and unleashes a pandemic; CDC’s Glen Nowak and WHO’s Dick Thompson talk about communicating news of an outbreak.

  • The Wash Post’s Alan Sipress; CP’s Helen Branswell, and infectious disease reporter Maryn McKenna deliver some excellent tips and questions for reporters covering the story — in small and big communities, in the U.S. or abroad.

(April 2009)

Boss Hog: The power of pork

Pat Stith, Joby Warrick and Melanie Sill, News & Observer (North Carolina) via Pulitzer Prize site
North Carolina becomes the nation’s No. 2 pig producer, but not without cost. Who wins, and who loses, when a major industry is given special treatment?

In this five-part series, The News & Observer explores North Carolina’s pork revolution and the state’s role as a supporter and mediator. The stories drive home one central question:

Who’s in charge?

North Carolina, hundreds of miles from America’s traditional Midwest hog belt, has become the nation’s No. 2 hog producer. Last year, hogs generated more than $1 billion in revenue — more than tobacco. This year, hogs are expected to pass broiler chickens as the No. 1 agricultural commodity.

That’s part of the story — the part claimed proudly by companies such as Murphy Family Farms, Carroll’s Foods and Prestage Farms. These companies have put North Carolina on the map with high-tech, high-density hog production.

But there’s more to the story of North Carolina’s fastest-growing industry.

In a seven-month investigation, The N&O found that state agencies aid the expansion of pork production but are slow to act on a growing range of problems resulting from that increase.

The industry has won laws and policies promoting its rapid growth in North Carolina. It also has profited from a network of formal and informal alliances with powerful people in government.

Now, a growing chorus of residents, local leaders and environmental groups is pressing the state to address worries about hog farming. Most are complaining about odor. And an increasing number want to know about pollution problems and long-term economic development issues in Eastern North Carolina.
(February 19, 1995)
Investigative journalism that won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize.