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Swine Flu Perspective

An estimated 300 Americans have died this week--and hundreds more will likely be dead by the weekend. The death is sure to continue for weeks, months, with no one safe, and no end in sight.  

Swine flu, right?  No: highway collisions. Going by average rates, about twice as many people have died on US highways this week as have died from swine flu so far. With the WHO raising its pandemic alert level this afternoon, things could still get a lot worse. But let's keep things in perpective for now.

And if the highway comparison doesn't move you, how about the fact that regular old non-swine flu kills about 36,000 Americans per year on average? If the government announced that swine flu would likely kill tens of thousands I imagine there would be pandemonium in the streets. But only because people don't understand the flu.


“Despite hundreds and hundreds of cases likely” at St. Francis [school in New York], none of the cases has turned into severe influenza, Dr. Frieden said. The virus is “acting the same way as seasonal flu acts,” he said. And over the past week, some cases of suspected swine flu turned out to be “garden-variety seasonal flu,” he said.

See also the Lowell, Mass., brothers who are "not hospitalized and are recovering" or the six infected people in Maryland, none of whom have been hospitalized.

--Michael Crowley