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Guest Thinkers

TB Lawyer Saga Has Little Impact on Public

The news frenzy over Andrew Speaker, the honeymooning lawyer with a rare strain of anti-biotic resistant TB, did little to shape public views on the disease as a global health problem. Though top news outlets such as the NYTimes and NPR used the focusing event as a news peg to provide more thematic and contextual coverage of the TB epidemic, the news organizations where most Americans get their news– including local TV news, cable, and soft/celebrity news outlets–portrayed the event mostly in human interest terms.

Not surprisingly, in a poll released this week, Gallup finds the following:

In a recent Gallup Poll, many more respondents say HIV/AIDS (82%) and cancer (79%) are very serious global health problems. Nearly as many rate poor nutrition this seriously (75%). At the bottom of the list, tuberculosis ties with malaria for fourth out of the five diseases rated, with only 24% of Americans rating either one as “very serious.” Interestingly, about 2 in 10 (23%) rate tuberculosis as “not serious,” and more people consider it “somewhat serious” than they do “very serious.”…The heightened visibility of tuberculosis in the U.S. of late has not triggered public alarm about the prevalence of TB worldwide. In fact, fewer Americans this year than last December (24% vs. 31%) think tuberculosis is a “very serious” problem worldwide.


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