Mayer Brezis, MD, MPH; Daphna Halpern-Reichert, MPH; Mitchell J. Schwaber, MD, MSc
Acknowledgment: The authors thank Dr. Ella Mendelson from the National Laboratory of Virology, Tel Hashomer, Israel, and Dr. Randall Nelson from the Department of Public Health, Hartford, Connecticut, for providing data on tests sent to their laboratories.
Brezis M., Halpern-Reichert D., Schwaber M.; Mass Media–Induced Availability Bias in the Clinical Suspicion of West Nile Fever. Ann Intern Med. 2004;140:234-235. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-140-3-200402030-00024
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2004;140(3):234-235.
TO THE EDITOR:
Background: The mass media can magnify the public perception of a risk to health, sometimes to the degree of mass hysteria (1, 2). Since awareness of a diagnosis influences the clinical perception of its likelihood (availability bias) (3-6), we wondered whether media coverage of a disease might contribute to such a cognitive bias.
Objective: We chose recent outbreaks of West Nile fever in Israel and in the United States, which received widespread press coverage, to examine the relationship between the intensity of media coverage and the clinical suspicion of a disease, as expressed by the extent of testing.
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