I was in a Starbucks today when I was struck by an allergy-induced cough. Three people stared at me with something approaching panic. "Don't worry, it's just Marburg," I said, which caused them to visibly relax. Not that they knew what Marburg was. They were just glad to hear that I didn't have the dreaded swine flu. (Fun fact about Marburg: Those who manage to recover from Marburg frequently suffer from orchititis. Look it up.)
This is a bad flu, and I'm terribly sorry for the few people who have died from it, but I'm reasonably sure we're not all going to die (if we do, at least my family won't die hungry, since I have a bunch of MREs in my basement).
Frank Furedi, an expert on hysteria and paranoia, has this to say about our latest cable-television-induced panic: "The explosion of global fear about the outbreak of a deathly flu virus in Mexico is more a response to the dramatisation of influenza than to the actual threat it poses." He went on:
There is nothing unusual about the outbreak of flu. Every year, thousands of people die from the flu, and, in normal conditions, society has learned to cope with the flu threat. From time to time, an outbreak of flu turns into a global pandemic, leading to a catastrophic loss of life. However, there is no evidence that the so-called swine flu, which has so far claimed a relatively small number of lives, will turn into a pandemic. Rather, what we are faced with is a health crisis that has been transformed into a moral drama.