Avian Flu as this years "Most media hyped story that never was". This honour was contended by some major heavyweight stories, which while recieving extensive coverage translated into little more than higher viewership and readership figures for the worlds´ global media outlets. The runner up to this years "Most media hyped story that never was" is the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published by Danish paper Jyllands-Posten.
Avian flu was dubbed the new "killer pandemic", raising fear among millions of people and prompting governments to take usual steps. While avian flu killed just over 150 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, the story recieved unprecendented media coveage. While the extensive media coverage lead to raising the potential risks of avian flue, it served to desensitized the general public to the Avian flu threat based on past warnings related to Mad Cow Disease, West Nile Virus, and more recently, SARS.
While increase media coverage should have lead to a greater understanding of avian flu, a poll conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) indicates this is not the case. The poll reveals over half of Americans report following the news media's coverage of avian flu closely (54%). Most Americans were aware that there had been cases of avian flu in humans in Asia (69%). Furthermore, most people were aware that there had not been cases in the United States. However, and concerningly, one in seven people believed that human cases had occurred in the United States (15%).