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Profiting From the Swine Flu Panic

Don't forget: with the Internet and a 24-hour news cycle, nobody makes money by keeping us calm.

by
Charlie Martin

Bio

April 27, 2009 - 12:00 am
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Okay, everyone panic.

About what? Well, you might ask. Let’s see: collapsing finances, Obama the socialist, pirates, and … the “swine flu.”

It’s in Mexico. Thousands of people are sick with it, and dozens have died. The Drudge Report ran a red headline, and Bloomberg reported that Reforma said that Felipe Solis, who greeted President Obama in Mexico City, has died “of symptoms of the disease.” (The actual news stories dealing with Solis’s death, however, say he died of a heart attack.)

So let’s just deal with that panic first, by stepping back and thinking. Yes, there has been an outbreak of “swine flu,” which is to say, influenza. You know, the flu. Flu lives a kind of a wild life, as it migrates promiscuously among birds, pigs, and people. At the same time, it sluttily exchanges proteins with wild abandon. The result is a virus that changes its clothes often, always trying to tart itself up to infect some new cells while not being as recognizable to your immune system as that same tramp you hooked up with that night — the one you don’t tell even your friends at the golf course about.

It’s called “swine flu” because the last strain that looked like that genetically was seen in, well, swine. Just like the “Asian bird flu” was called that because it came from birds in Asia. Is it worth worrying about? A little, especially if you’re a World Health Organization official who wants to keep funding or a CDC doc worried about being hauled up in front of Henry Waxman to explain why you didn’t make enough of a fuss.

But panic? Hardly. It’s not dengue fever or something. It’s the flu, and although we don’t think about it, people die of the flu every year. That’s why it’s important to get a flu shot; even if you’re young and strong, people around you might not be. But it’s still just the flu. Out of 800 cases reported as of this writing, only around 60 people have died. How many people have died in traffic accidents in the last week? Or from falls? You can bet the 800 cases reported are the sickest of the sick.

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