David Whelan, writing for Forbes, has posted a useful reminder about the comparative threat of swine flu. He notes that 30,000 to 50,000 Americans die from complications caused by seasonal flu each year. Each of these deaths is a tragedy, undoubtedly, but they are part of a normal cycle.
This new flu? It could be a profound danger, another 1918 catastrophe, but it could also be one of many threats such as the 2003 SARS epidemic that scared the hell out of us before fading into the background, an historical near-miss. Whelen also wisely notes the media's role in whipping these sorts of threats into a public frenzy:
Recalling SARS: "Cable news channels and other media sensationalized the outbreak as if it were a Hollywood movie—a real-life sequel to Dustin Hoffman's 1995 hit Outbreak. A medical historian at the University of Toronto, Edward Shorter, watched what was going on and called the phenomenon 'mass psychosis.'"Read the entire article: History Says Avoid Virus Hysteria