How Bad Is It?, Ctd.

A reader writes:

It's worth noting that Megan's numbers assume a great deal. In the earliest stages of any flu outbreak, there will typically be far more people who have the virus than are actually tested and confirmed to have it. Only after public awareness of the virus rises substantially will many people with flu symptoms feel compelled to seek medical treatment (after all, most of us get the flu every couple of years and don't bother with the doctor), whereas most deaths will be investigated. When compounded with the lack of access to adequate health care in Mexico, it's even more likely that the ratio of deaths to those infected will inevitably appear higher than it will ultimately turn out to be. The comparative mildness of cases in the U.S. so far would go further to suggest this. Having said that, the young (but not too young) ages of those who have died so far is troubling, and of course, this could turn out to be a nightmare. But Megan is reading too much into the numbers as they exist now. For all we know, swine flu may turn out to kill not many more than those killed in your average annual flu outbreak. Nothing to be insensitive to, mind you, but not quite the apocalypse.