The reporting of theoretical health risks by the media: Canadian newspaper reporting of potential blood transmission of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

Wilson, Kumanan; Code, Catherine; Dornan, Christopher; Ahmad, Nadya; H├ębert, Paul; Graham, Ian
January 2004
BMC Public Health;2004, Vol. 4, p1
Academic Journal
Background: The media play an important role at the interface of science and policy by communicating scientific information to the public and policy makers. In issues of theoretical risk, in which there is scientific uncertainty, the media's role as disseminators of information is particularly important due to the potential to influence public perception of the severity of the risk. In this article we describe how the Canadian print media reported the theoretical risk of blood transmission of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Methods: We searched 3 newspaper databases for articles published by 6 major Canadian daily newspapers between January 1990 and December 1999. We identified all articles relating to blood transmission of CJD. In duplicate we extracted information from the articles and entered the information into a qualitative software program. We compared the observations obtained from this content analysis with information obtained from a previous policy analysis examining the Canadian blood system's decision-making concerning the potential transfusion transmission of CJD. Results: Our search identified 245 relevant articles. We observed that newspapers in one instance accelerated a policy decision, which had important resource and health implication, by communicating information on risk to the public. We also observed that newspapers primarily relied upon expert opinion (47 articles) as opposed to published medical evidence (28 articles) when communicating risk information. Journalists we interviewed described the challenges of balancing their responsibility to raise awareness of potential health threats with not unnecessarily arousing fear amongst the public. Conclusions: Based on our findings we recommend that journalists report information from both expert opinion sources and from published studies when communicating information on risk. We also recommend researchers work more closely with journalists to assist them in identifying and appraising relevant scientific information on risk.


Related Articles

  • How is CJD Transmitted?  // Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Fact Sheet;May2010, p5 

    The article focuses on how Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) can be transmitted. It mentions that CJD cannot be transmitted through air, touching, or most other forms of casual contact. It informs that exposure to brain tissue and spinal cord fluid from infected individuals should be avoided to...

  • Green gauge. Hutchings, Vicky // New Statesman & Society;1/5/96, Vol. 9 Issue 384, p32 

    Focuses on research work on the possible transmission of cow disease to humans in Great Britain. Experiments with mice; Outbreaks of Creutzfeld-Jacob disease; Growth of scrapie within sheep.

  • Blood to be screened for CJD. Morgan, Janet // BMJ: British Medical Journal (International Edition);8/24/96, Vol. 313 Issue 7055, p441 

    Calls for stricter blood screening process among blood donors due to the emergence of a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Averting blood-related transmission of CJD; Cases linking CJD with blood transfusion.

  • Blood recipients and CJD: to notify or not to notify, that is the question. Sibbald, Barbara; Sibbald, B // CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;10/06/98, Vol. 159 Issue 7, p829 

    Should Recipients who have received Blood from a person who developed Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease be notified, even though there is no proof the disease will be transmitted? Does notification simply cause unnecessary anxiety? Two recipients explained their polar-opposite positions during a recent...

  • Is Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease transmitted in blood? Ricketts, Maura N. // CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;11/15/97, Vol. 157 Issue 10, p1367 

    Editorial. Looks at the concern of the question of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) being transmitted by blood. The questions of CJD being transmitted through blood or blood products; The factors making it difficult to conclude that there is no risk; The likelihood that transmission is possible...

  • Notifying patients exposed to blood products associated with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease: Integrating Caulfield, Timothy; Dossetor, John // CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;11/15/97, Vol. 157 Issue 10, p1389 

    Considers the scrutiny of institutions providing blood transfusion. The concerns about donors who subsequently died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD); The recommendation to health care institutions issued by the Canadian Red Cross Society; The risk of acquiring CJD from blood products; The...

  • Variant Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (vCJD).  // Weekly Epidemiological Record;11/24/2000, Vol. 75 Issue 47, p377 

    Focuses on the precautionary measures against the risk of transmission of Variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (vCJD) by blood transfusion in Great Britain. Cause of vCJD; Risk of vCJD transmission by transfusion; Advantages of implementing the precautionary measures; Need of government commitment...

  • Blood transfusion risk: Protecting against the unknown. Barbara, John; Flanagan, Peter // BMJ: British Medical Journal (International Edition);03/07/98, Vol. 316 Issue 7133, p717 

    Editorial. Focuses on the potential blood transfusion risk posed by a variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in Great Britain. Evidence of risk; Measures identified by the Committee on Safety of Medicines to address the issue; Resource implications of the precautionary measures.

  • Transmission of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in corneal grafts. Allan, Bruce; Tuft, Stephen // BMJ: British Medical Journal (International Edition);12/13/97, Vol. 315 Issue 7122, p1553 

    Discusses a variety of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in corneal grafts. Reported iatrogenic transmission of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in 1974; Modes of introduction or transmission of the disease; Practical steps in risk management.


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics