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Some Perspective On The New Flu

Acting CDC Director Richard Besser started his daily conference call with some numbers that put this outbreak into perspective.

As of this morning, we know of 109 confirmed cases in the U.S., affecting 11 states. Of those cases, just six have resulted in hospitalization.

The disease is sure to spread across the country; it's already appearing in the Washington, D.C., area. So there will be many more cases. But this "ongoing transmission" is to be expected, Besser says. Influenza travels easily from person to person.

And while severity will vary, and cause some deaths, most people seem to be recovering on their own. The drug also appears to respond to antiviral drugs. 

Remember, too, that seasonal flu kills 36,000 people every year. 

The government is right to take this problem seriously--and to prepare for the worst. Among other things, epidemics can come in waves. A mild strain now could become a more virulent strain when flu season hits a few months from now. But, at the moment, there's no reason to panic. 

--Jonathan Cohn