Saturday, January 02, 2010

Overhype the Danger and Take Credit for the Milder Results

That seems to be what is happening in this New York Times report, which begins:

Although it is too early to write the obituary for swine flu, medical experts, already assessing how the first pandemic in 40 years has been handled, have found that while luck played a part, a series of rapid but conservative decisions by federal officials worked out better than many had dared hope.

It is true that far fewer people have died of the swine flu than were expected, but it is also likely that the predictions were unreasonably high. In the southern hemisphere, where no vaccine was available in the winter months of 2009, the flu also killed far fewer people than expected.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the federal government promised to deliver 160 million doses of the vaccine by late October. It actually came through with less than 30 million -- meaning that they provided less than 20 percent of what they had emphatically promised.

It is arguable that the panic created by the overhyping of the swine flu danger actually cost lives, as it resulted in at least some rationing of tamiflu.

The swine flu epidemic of 2009, like that of 1976, turned out to be greatly exaggerated. While we can all be glad for that, there is no reason to thank the federal government.

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