Looks like the 2009 H1N1 is likely to turn into a fizzle. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, since being sensible always involves a high click-to-bang ratio. That is, you can have a great batting average simply by waiting until all the evidence is in, but by then it’s too late to do anything. Sort of defeats the point of the exercise. So you decide on purpose to jump the gun and put up with the low batting average.
What irritates me is the way the news media, particularly TV, pander to the fact that they get higher viewership during a crisis, and so they need to create a crisis from whatever material comes to hand. In that spirit, they’ve removed the word “epidemic” from their vocabulary. In the real world, diseases go from “outbreak,” to “epidemic,” to “pandemic.” But the media has gotten to the point where any news-worthy outbreak is a “pandemic” — or at least a “potential pandemic” — while the word “epidemic” isn’t used at all.
Does crying wolf actually work? Less and less over time, I’d say. The crowd at Saturday’s farmers’ market was about as large and about as happy as usual, though a nearby college had closed due to a suspected flu case. Probably a lot of people were like me, and looked at the Web site of the Centers for Disease Control, then went about their business.