James L. Schoff is associate director of Asia-Pacific studies at the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis (IFPA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Since the outbreak of the new influenza virus H1N1 (swine flu) six months ago, it was clear that this year’s flu season would be unlike any other in recent memory. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared in June that the new virus was the first global flu epidemic in forty-one years, and a WHO official later suggested that over one billion people worldwide could become infected within the next one to two years. Although a U.S. presidential panel warned in August that the swine flu could infect up to half of the U.S. population this fall and winter, the potential lethality of the new virus is still not clear. Government leaders are trying to prepare prudently without overreacting, recognizing the high public health and economic stakes involved if they get it wrong. Read more »