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The Viral Spiral - How A Meme About the Virus May Be More Contagious Than the Virus Itself
Date:5/4/2009

PALO ALTO, Calif., May 4 /PRNewswire/ -- The following is a statement by Joon Yun, Director, Palo Alto Institute:

The world is slowly recovering from the fear of a swine flu pandemic, a panic that has proved more widespread than the virus itself.

Perhaps the original fear of swine flu was well grounded. After all, the "Spanish Flu" of 1918-1919 was a global epidemic that killed somewhere between 20 and 40 million people, and it could happen again.

Swine flu was first believed to be highly contagious, with even a brief exposure to someone afflicted producing the condition. For days, world health officials said they expected to see more confirmed cases and more severe forms. Officials across the country stepped up efforts to look for cases, especially among people who had travelled to Mexico. In Egypt last week, the entire pig population was being slaughtered, because of the irrational fear that swine flu was actually transmitted by contact with pigs.

The fear of swine flu has led to hospital emergency rooms overflowing into parking lots, school closings, including all of the schools in Fort Worth, Texas, along with the shutting of stores and numerous travel restrictions. For a while, China stopped all direct flights to Mexico. Vice President Biden warned against confined spaces and travelling in containers, which is never a good idea even in the best of times. The world economies, already fragile, teetered under the added loads of uncertainty, with the potential for lost revenues from cancelled deals, reduced tourism, and other changes in behaviour and spending patterns.

Those mass numbers have yet to materialize. Currently, World Health Organization officials estimate there are 1,003 cases of swine flu in 20 countries. In the United States, the number of confirmed swine flu cases is about 250 in 35 states as of late Sunday. But this should be put into the context
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SOURCE Palo Alto Institute
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