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What are the drivers of the UK media coverage of meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, the inter-relationships and relative influences?

By T Boyce, Eleanor Murray and A Holmes


Meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection in the UK receives intense media attention. The nature of coverage, political responses and solutions offered has been questioned and the relationship between health professionals, the media and government policy needs greater understanding. We identified 2880 articles on MRSA published in 12 UK newspapers between 1994 and 2005, compared with 21 articles in six major US newspapers. To investigate the relative influences and relationships further, 68 weeks of coverage from 1990 to 2004 were analysed. The dates were selected based on publication dates of the ten most frequently cited articles on MRSA according the ISI Web of Science portal of Department of Health press releases on MRSA since 1997. Within this period, 351 news articles were published with members of the public and politicians representing 60% of sources quoted. Scientific articles, even those with the highest number of citations, have negligible influence on newspaper coverage. Simple solutions quoted in the newspaper articles focused almost exclusively on cleaning. The UK press exhibits a high interest in MRSA compared with that of the USA. Healthcare workers, experts and professional bodies have criticised the nature of media reporting, but have had little influence or involvement in the press. This may facilitate journalists, celebrities, the public and politicians to drive these stories unchecked and allow politics to address only the simplistic solutions generated

Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.jhin.2009.05.022
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