Keep your thinking cap on when you’re reading breathless media accounts of “swine flu”, a.k.a. influenza A virus, subtype H1N1. We are a long, long way from it being an “oh my G-d, we’re all going to die” pandemic.
I have a hard time getting worked up over a flu where the vast majority of its sufferers recover, and whose only confirmed North American fatalities are twenty unfortunate Mexicans. That’s a small number. Tragic for those families, but still small.
By contrast, over 2 billion people (one-third of humanity!) have contracted hepatitis B. That’s a pandemic. About 84,000 people die every year from hepatitis B (and complications arising from it). Hep B will kill far more people in your lifetime than swine flu ever will.
UPDATE: As my wife mentioned to me this evening, remember that SARS thing back in 2003? Forty-four people died in Toronto due to that respiratory disease. Remember how the world media was freaking out about it, and WHO instituted a travel warning? Remember seeing tourists on the subway wearing surgical masks, even though 99% of the city’s population had never, ever been exposed to SARS? And then the number of tourists that showed up took a giant nosedive? 95,000 people in the tourism industry laid off, 30-40% decline in hotel occupancy rates, etc cetera.
Well, that’s how Mexico is feeling right now. Except the impact to tourism will probably be much more catastrophic in some areas.