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Swine flu: Chill, people

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Sunday, Aug. 2, 2009

The alarmists have taken to banging the orchestral drums heralding the re-emergence of H1N1 swine flu in deafening fashion:

• The Defense Department is talking about establishing regional military teams to aid civilian authorities should there actually be a major outbreak. There's even talk of troop deployment

• A nationwide survey of 670 physicians found that "doctors' level of concern has steadily increased over the past month"

• The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that a flu surge among kids at summer camps presages a fall surge as students return to school

• Another health group cried "Pregnant women and children first!" in urging half the U.S. population to get a series of flu shots.

Be afraid, be very afraid, appears to be the message.

Enter British epidemiologist Tom Jefferson: "Sometimes you get the feeling that there's a whole industry almost waiting for a pandemic to occur," he told the German magazine Der Spiegel.

Dr. Jefferson sees little difference between a swine flu and "normal" flu epidemic. He questions the effectiveness of flu vaccines in children and the elderly. And he stresses that the most fundamental way to battle this or any flu, and viruses in general, is regular hand-washing.

Being prepared is prudent. Inciting a panic is reckless. In pursuit of the former, too many are dangerously close to the latter. It's time to chill (and to pass the soap).

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