Factual · Powerful · Original · Iconoclastic
For five years now, the WHO has been crying that a flu pandemic is a "when, not an if." Now it can boast it was right. Problem is, the mildest pandemics of the 20th century killed at least a million people worldwide, while old-fashioned seasonal flu strikes every nation yearly killing an estimated 250,000 to 500,000. But swine flu had killed all of 144 people when the pandemic was declared - far fewer than succumb daily to seasonal flu.
And in Mexico, where the outbreak began and where it has been the most severe, cases had already peaked.
Meanwhile, the declaration has signaled governments worldwide to launch emergency response plans. These will be costly when we can least afford it, could prompt severe restrictions on human activities (think China), and render the term "flu pandemic" essentially meaningless - risking lethal public complacency if a bona fide one hits.
How could the WHO get away with simply swapping "avian" for "swine?" Find out in my piece in today's Los Angeles Times.