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Health Headline Hyperbole Returns

August 11, 2009

There seems to have been a noticable lack of over-excited health headlines in the newspaper.   This is not a bad thing.  I don’t know the reason for the change.  Perhaps they’ve been around but I’ve been distracted?  Never fear for the hyperbole has returned.

Bird-flu survivors could face brain-disease risk

Survivors of bird flu and perhaps other influenza viruses may not be out of the woods once the fever and cough are gone — animal studies suggest the virus may damage the brain and cause Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Did you notice the key word?  “May.”

Guess what kind of research this conclusion is based on.  Mice.  We’ve discussed this before.  Studies on mice give clues to what might possibly happen in humans but are not proof of causation.

The article is tricky, too.  We’ve been told that swine flu should be called H1N1. We’ve all heard of avian flu but did you ever hear it called H5N1?  I haven’t.

H5N1 causes changes in mice which resemble the changes related to Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson disease in humans.  H1N1 doesn’t infect the brain but I’m sure that a lot of people are going to be confused by the terminology.

The research is interesting but shouldn’t really be trumpeted in the newspaper.  Isn’t there something more appropriate for space filler?

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