Thursday, April 30, 2009

To Fear Flu or Not?

"Ordinary" flu kills thousands of people in North America every year. Yet some exotic flu killing very few can get massive attention.

I guess there are three possible scary things about a flu virus. It can be a new hybrid, so none of us has any antibodies against it; it can spread very quickly; and it can kill a high proportion of those who get sick.

The new swine flu or whatever qualifies on the first two grounds but not (so far) the third. The bird flu that Bush was scaring us about in 2003 qualifies on one and three, but not two. (It apparently hasn't adapted so as to infect human beings efficiently--but when it does, it kills about half its victims).

It seems to be taken for granted among experts that there will be a true dangerous pandemic one of these days, and when it happens, it's most likely to be flu.

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