ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Panic on the Pandemic

A public health emergency cannot be tackled by spreading panic.

Influenza has the potential to infect many people quickly. Although the death rate for seasonal flu is probably only around 1% of those affected, when the numbers so affected run into millions, as they do in India, the number of people who die will also be large. It is this potential that generates fear and underlies the near-hysteria that is now sweeping across western India and threatens to do so in the rest of the country over the spread of the A(H1N1) virus.

The world has seen many epidemics of influenza. In the last century there were three pandemics: the Spanish influenza in 1918, Asian influenza in 1957, and Hong Kong influenza in 1968. The 1918 pandemic is considered one of the deadliest in human history and killed an estimated 40 to 50 million people. The others were milder. In 1957 there were about two million deaths and in 1968 approximately one million.

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