Swine-flu hysteria

These details matter because, as science writer Wendy Orent has pointed out in the New Republic, “only the precise conditions of World War I’s Western Front — a true disease factory — could have created a flu as virulent as the one responsible for the 1918 pandemic. . . . The virus didn’t need to keep people well enough to walk about — fresh victims were close at hand.”

Sure enough, no flu pandemic has been even remotely comparable: The worst was the Asian flu of 1957-58, which killed an estimated two million people, including 70,000 in the U.S. (or about twice the annual average.) That’s been true despite the more than tripling of the world’s population, the advent of factory farming, “climate change” and planeloads of potentially disease-bearing people bouncing between Mexico City and Hong Kong and New York and Paris.

In other words, despite all the processes of globalization that are said to be leading us toward nature’s great comeuppance, trend lines indicate we are better equipped than ever to minimize the effects of a pandemic.