The Obligatory Flu Post
Many other people have posted all kinds of useful information about this little Spring hiccup of a swine flu pandemic we seem to be experiencing on our planet this year. But I've still been getting I'm-not-really-worried-but-should-I-be? emails and calls from assorted patients, friends and others, so I suppose the most efficient way to address the topic is by posting on it.
Actually, most of this is re-posting. Good information is available here and here. Here is my bottom line answer to the question, "Is this whole swine flu thing a just lot of hype?"
I think the main reason the word "pandemic" engenders so much visceral fear is that it is (INCORRECTLY) used as a shorthand reference to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic that was, in fact, unusually virulent and lethal to populations who do not ordinarily succumb to the flu, ie, healthy young adults aged 20-40. The very old, the very young, and the already-sick are always susceptible to complications from any kind of flu, be it human, bird or pig. There is no evidence that the current swine flu strain is especially virulent. Most cases have been mild; few hospitalizations have been required; the single US death was a toddler with a pre-existing illness.
So yes, closing schools and canceling events is definitely overkill. The real question we should be asking is why wasn't everyone worried over the winter, when the "regular" seasonal flu killed 36,000 people in this country alone? As of today, there have been a whopping 141 cases and 1 death. This is not something rational people should be losing sleep over.
Of course, "rational" and "American" do seem to be mutually exclusive much of the time.