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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.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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