Conservative journalist Bre Payton's shock H1N1 death shows just how little the local press is reporting

Bre Payton, 26, a talented writer for The Federalist and a Fox News commentator, has shockingly died. It happened yesterday in San Diego, the result of H1N1, commonly known as swine flu. Payton was fine two days ago, and all of a sudden she was in a coma, one she didn't make it out of. I didn't know her, but nobody should die like that, not even someone with a more advanced age or less-rightward politics. Twenty-six, and suddenly gone. I feel such sympathy for those who knew and loved her, because this is awful news.

It made me want to make some kind of sense of how this could happen. I wanted to look up what might be going on here since I live here, very likely in the same district she died in, given that she was apparently visiting her friend Morgan Murtaugh, the Republican candidate I voted for in the midterms since this is my district. Googling "San Diego," "swine flu" and "-Payton" to see what the news was before her death, I found ... no news coverage.

That's dereliction of duty from the press. There are so many unanswered questions the public here would have an interest in knowing, and nope, nobody on the job.

First, how does anyone die of the flu? According to LiveScience, if a flu death is quick, it's the result of one's lungs getting so inflammed a sufferer cannot breathe. The word is not out on Payton, but quite possibly, that is what happened to her since her death was so quick. That's an awful way to go.

Then I headed off to the County Health and Human Services Agency, where, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, her death is being investigated.

What I found there was shocking - take a look at this Dec. 22 Influenza Watch chart: Flu cases have spiked up significantly in the past two weeks. Swine flu, which is relatively rare, now accounts for 14.3% of all flu cases. We can also see from the various charts shown that there was a bad outbreak last year and this year seems to be on track to echo to a lesser extent that same dangerous pattern.

Image credit: San Diego County Department of Health and Human Services

Which raises the question even more: Where has the press been in all this? I looked hard on Google for news for stories about swine flu's presence, or any flu's presence in San Diego County, checking the local TV stations, the San Diego Union-Tribune and the local alternative presses, and found ... nothing. I saw one sponsored story from Kaiser Permanente on the potential of the issue and nothing else. There was some reporting on flu in San Diego from early in the year, but now that we have reached Peak Week for flu cases ... nothing.

It's too soon to blame illegals at this point, though caravaners are crossing the border into the states now, and a recent child migrant's death was determined to have been caused by a separate strain of the flu. It's also too soon to dismiss this as an issue of the homeless. We don't know why she died - was it the flu itself and some very bad luck, was it geographical risk, was it a hospital error, was it an underlying condition? We don't even know which hospital, but it's unlikely that the problem was the hospital, given that all of the hospitals here are very good and many are nationally ranked. It very likely happened in congressional district 53, where Murtaugh (who ran for office in 53 and was the one who discovered her friend unconscious) probably lived, given that Payton was not from San Diego, based on Google searches, she seemed to have family near Los Angeles. District 53 is neither a big illegals place nor a major homeless population area.  

More searching shows that swine flu has been in this area in the past. A decade ago, H1N1 shut down my old high school as a public safety measure. I had my flu shot. But what I can't ascertain from news reports is whether that strain of the flu is included in this year's shot. I only found an old report saying that after the 2009 outbreak, H1N1 was included in the following year's serum. Not seeing any news on that, either.

What does this tell us? That a big story has been going on and none of the local presses are spotting it. Seriously, I looked. That's a public health issue that affects everyone, and nobody has been reporting it. Not the local TV stations, not the San Diego Union-Tribune, not the local alternative presses. This is a different sort of media dereliction of duty compared to the typical political bias, and makes me wonder if it's the result of so many layoffs in the news industry that expertise on public health has gone by the wayside.

Either way, the press has fallen down on the job by not warning of the potential for danger in San Diego over this deadly illness.

Bre Payton, R.I.P.