Buy this, read this, watch this, or you might die: pandemic alarmists for profit.

This press release from Random House, text below, was sent out today as part of a nation-wide media release. I think the tactic, which could be taken as harshly as fear-mongering for profit – goes too far.

I can’t imagine that the two authors (both medical doctors) would feel entirely comfortable, for example, with the publicist’s first sentence:

Dear Colleague,

By all accounts, this coming flu season is the season during which the flu pandemic and the spread of H5N1, known as “the avian flu” will spread worldwide.


Drs. Vincent Lam and Colin Lee have prepared The Flu Pandemic and You, a comprehensive guide for Canadians. Using their experience in dealing with the SARS outbreaks in 2003, Dr. Lam and Dr. Lee have described what we can best to do protect ourselves for the coming pandemic.

With professional expertise, this book describes:

  • What you can do to protect yourself for the coming pandemic
  • The scientific reasons for the current health concern
  • The effects a pandemic could have on society
  • The steps that governments are likely to take if and when the pandemic hits
  • The history of influenza pandemics

Dr. Vincent Lam is an emergency physician in Toronto. He has contributed to The Globe and Mail, National Post, and Toronto Life magazine. His work also includes expedition medicine on Arctic and Antarctic ships.

Dr. Colin Lee is a public health physician and an emergency physician. He serves on a number of infectious disease control committees at the hospital, community and provincial levels in Ontario. His work also extends globally to developing countries.

Dr. Lam and Lee are available for interviews on the following dates:


September 25th and 26th for print interviews
October 10th and 11th for radio and television &nbsp

PUB DATE for this book is: September 30th 2006

To book an interview or for a copy of the book, please contact:

Nadia de Freitas

I wrote about a similar fear-as-marketing strategy to do with a CBC TV program about pandemics. I have been on the other side, having to write press releases and pitch journalists for coverage on something that doesn’t have enough to sink your teeth into, not enough ‘hook’ to sell the story. I’ve produced shows where I’ve been on the receiving end of those calls (“You want us to interview a guy who’ll talk about the flu? Uhhh…”), and turned them down.   But I think this crosses a line – maybe even an ethical line.

I would be interested to know whether others have similar responses, or if I’m out of it and (pandemic-wise) things are pretty dire.

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