In the mid-19th Century, a newspaper could reach several thousand people daily or weekly. By the mid-20th Century, TV and radio reached 10s to 100s of millions of people instantaneously and possessed a multinational reach. Today, with the Internet, and satellite TV and radio, it is possible to reach 100s of millions of people or more across the globe within minutes. This vast and practically instantaneous reach of technology feeds a seemingly insatiable, 24/7 appetite for news and information. What are the implications of this for fighting epidemics?
We've seen some of the consequences in the Ebola outbreak this year. On the one hand, the ability of aid groups to spread information broadly has been helpful for raising awareness and bringing additional resources to bear on the epidemic. On the other hand, news headlines resulted in near-hysteria and much counterproductive behavior in the US and other developed nations. Examples were highlighted in a previous post, and many, many others have offered similar observations and commentary.