Columbia University Medical Center
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital The University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell
April 27, 2009

When an acorn falls on Chicken Little's head, he works his friends Henny Penny, Cockey Lockey and Goosey Loosey into a frenzy -- that is until they get eaten by Foxy Loxy. The nut, it turned out, was far less menacing than the opportunistic fox.

Nursery rhymes aside, public hysteria is natural reaction to news that is surprising, frightening and unpredictable -- like swine flu.

As the news coverage ratchets up, so does a sense of fear about how big and how dangerous this new swine flu virus will be.

While the Centers for Disease Control , have declared the new resistant strain a "public health emergency," comparing it to the 1918 flu pandemic that killed 50 million worldwide, some are warning that although panic is natural, it's not necessarily healthy.

"In general, people are risk averse, they want to protect themselves," said Dr. Robert Klitzman, a Columbia University Medical Center psychiatrist who has researched the AIDS and mad cow epidemics.

"You don't want to overreact or underreact, and knowing what to do is extremely hard," he told ABCNews.com. "We tend to go one way or the other. We want to avoid either one."


Read more at ABC.com">Read more at ABC.com

 

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