Science

Swine Flu Death Projections and Complacency

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The Christian Science Monitor on Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology projected "90,000" swine flu deaths possible:

The problem with dire warnings, though, is that the complacency scientists are in part trying to break may be caused by the very studies they tout – the crying wolf syndrome. The avian bird flu predictions in 2005 included estimates of millions dead. Worldwide, 282 people died.

Accordingly, after swine flu fears abated this spring, only 1 in 8 Americans is now worried "a great deal" about the virus, according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll this week…..

"Scientists walk a very fine line in how much information do we give: How much do we want to make people aware versus how much do we want to downplay it?" says Sarah Bass, an expert in health-risk communication at Temple University in Philadelphia.

In Tuesday's report, released by President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the 90,000 deaths figure was couched as a "possibility" rather than a prediction. Annually, about 36,000 Americans die of the regular flu, according to CDC estimates.

Jesse Walker wrote for Reason Online on the notable--yet largely unnoted--lack of panic about swine flu back in the spring, and why it was a good thing.