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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

May 1, 2009 at 10:00 PM

Swine-flu outbreak

Alan Berner / The Seattle Times

Flu screeners at Seattle’s Polyclinic are equipped with hand sanitizers and a list of questions.

Kudos for swift public-school response

Editor, The Times:

Seattle Public Schools should be congratulated for its response to recent concerns regarding the swine flu [“More schools close as flu worries rise,” page one, May 1]. As someone who has been sometimes critical of SPS’ lack of timely and transparent communications to parents and the community, I am indeed heartened to see such forthcoming, thorough and expedient news and updates.

The decision to close schools will be onerous for many working parents and surely there will be undue criticism –any of which will hopefully not be directed at SPS, as it appears that the recommendation was made by health officials.

Regardless of what the decision was or by whom it was made, as a parent and closer observer of the way local agencies communicate (or don’t communicate) with the public, I believe SPS has shown great leadership in transparently disclosing pertinent information and its determination to ensure word actually reaches the intended audience.

Dare I dream that this new and enlightened policy extend to other issues where SPS has not been as forthcoming? Hopefully, the public and this newspaper will support and applaud its efforts as an incentive to continue this refreshing course!

— Eleanor G. Trainor, Seattle

Facts aren’t as scary as headlines suggest

I cringe every time I read a sensationalist headline, and I’ve been cringing a lot this week. I realize that bad news sells papers, but please take the time and consideration to compose headlines that are reflective of the facts, particularly on subjects as sensitive as the current swine-flu scare.

One example from earlier in the week: “Flu alert raised as first death in U.S. is reported in Texas” [News, April 30]. The sad facts are that the deceased was a Mexican national who contracted the disease in Mexico and only came to the U.S. for treatment. The fact that the child died in the U.S. is not significant in any way, but yet that was chosen to be the main message.

And Thursday: “Swine flu found here” [page one, April 30]. Again, a misleading message given that these are only probable cases, and are awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

You owe it to your readers to not fan the flames of hysteria that are already smoldering on this subject. The facts are that there have been no deaths of U.S. citizens to date, there are no confirmed cases in Washington state and none of the 100-plus reported cases is life-threatening. Even the CDC is only recommending hand-washing and covering your mouth when coughing at this time. There are 36,000 deaths in the U.S. attributed to existing influenza strains every year. This dwarfs anything we’ve seen from this new strain thus far.

Right now, this is just a tempest in a teapot, and it doesn’t serve the public interest to portray it as a bigger issue. At the time we start seeing mortality rates higher than that of regular, seasonal flu, we can start worrying, but please don’t start us down that path prematurely. It causes needless worry, hurts local businesses and just isn’t good journalism.

— Andy Roberts, Kirkland

Calling for support from travel industry

In reference to the article, “More schools close, swine cases pass 100” [Local News, April 30]), Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is quoted as saying, “If you’re ill, you shouldn’t get on an airplane or any public transport to travel,” and, “If you’re sick, stay home. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that this week.”

If that is the guidance from the CDC, do the airlines provide for rescheduling of airline tickets at no cost to passengers? Or are we to stay home due to an unplanned sickness and lose out on potentially hundreds of dollars on our airline tickets?

I don’t disagree with the CDC recommendation, but how is the Department of Transportation or Federal Aviation Administration really helping us?

— Brian Mueller, Bremerton

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