Front-Page Propaganda in the Edmonton Journal

It is Easter Monday, 2008 03 24. I am reading the Edmonton Journal, specifically the front page containing two articles.

One of the two articles recounts the end of the first solo ski trip by a woman to the North Pole. After skiing for the first 60 km, she fell into a crevasse on an ice pressure ridge and was rescued. She was solo, but the men who rescued her were only a phone call and hours away, having man-designed, -manufactured and -transported rescue equipment at the ready to come to her rescue if the damsel fell into distress.

The other article, taking up twice as much space on the front page of the newspaper, discussed the issue of the incidents and consequences of antibiotic-resistant superbug infections (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus – MRSA – infections) in Canada and specifically in Canadian hospitals.

The article mentions that the superbugs are around everywhere, especially in places where lots of people live, eat and share space, and not only in hospitals. It mentions that “One in 10 people that acquire MRSA in hospital get an infection; community-acquired strains sicken two out of 10.” The article does not mention that community-acquired strains cause something that is very new and of great concern to health-care providers, a substantially elevated and escalating infection rate amongst men who have sex with men. According to “Homosexuals Squelch Facts About MRSA Outbreak, Conservatives Say“, by Pete Winn, CNSNews.com (published about on or just before Jan. 28, 2008), the USA 300 variant of “this MRSA infection is 13 to 14 times more prevalent in homosexual men than for the general population.”

Still, even though that information is quite likely being censored by google.com (see search results for “this MRSA infection is 13 to 14 times more prevalent in homosexual men”) that omission is not my major concern about the Edmonton Journal article on MRSA infections. Of far greater concern is the article’s white-washing of the quality of the health care provided in Canadian hospitals. The article states that,

An estimated 220,000 people across Canada suffer from hospital-acquired infections each year, and 8,000 die, says the Canadian Nosocomial Infection Surveillance Program….It’s worse in the United States, where the bacterial infection killed 19,000 people in 2005, reports The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Whether that was written inadvertently (extremely unlikely for anyone of even only average intelligence) or not, it is a very serious misrepresentation of the relevant facts. It appears to be even more serious if one considers that the whopper slipped by the Edmonton Journal’s editors without being detected. Even if all of the 19,000 people killed in the USA in 2005 by MRSA infections were to have acquired their fatal infections in hospitals (the quote from the Journal of the AMA used by Jodie Sinnema is not specific on that), for the situation in the USA to even match the severity of the Canadian fatality rate of hospital-acquired MRSA infections, the USA would have to have had at the very least about 80,000 hospital-acquired MRSA fatalities in 2005.

It follows that, going by the statistics collected and provided by Jodie Sinnema in her article, far from being less serious than that in the USA, the fatality rate from hospital-acquired MRSA infections is at the very least more than four times worse in Canada than it is in the USA.

Update 2008 03 27:
If you were at all worried about the Edmonton Journal’s front-page report, 2008 03 24, on the dire state of the quality of health care with respect to MRSA infections and -fatalities caused by Canadian hospitals, you can rest much easier after reading another article on “Superbug spreading outside hospitals” (Edmonton Journal, 2008 03 27, top of A6).

While the Edmonton Journal’s March 24 article on MRSA infections reported that “an estimated 220,000 people across Canada suffer from hospital-acquired infections each year, and 8,000 die…”, the Edmonton Journal’s March 27 article reduces the size of that calamity to “5,787 “newly identified” MRSA cases during the 2006 surveillance period, of which 3,561, or 62 per cent, were  acquired in the hospital, seven per cent in other acute care hospitals and eight per cent in long-term care facilities.  Community-acquired MRSA accounted for 893, or 15 per cent, of the reported cases….”.

That is most certainly welcome news and perhaps the most outstanding health improvement in any nation in the history of mankind.  In the space of a mere three days the Edmonton Journal reduced the number of MRSA infections in Canada from 220,000 a year to 3,561 in 2006, by a whopping 98.4 per cent.  If anything, that should have received front-page coverage.  I don’t know what the Edmonton Journal was thinking.

Mind you, my personal concerns about the MRSA statistics presented by the Edmonton Journal have not been alleviated the least.  It seems to me that the Edmonton Journal needs to get the services of someone able to interpret medical statistics and the differences between those from different sources.  If not, I am inclined to believe that the Edmonton Journal has given up on trying to dazzle with brilliance and began to attempt to baffle with B.S.

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