The New Rules: When Prevention Goes Viral

The New Rules: When Prevention Goes Viral

The world continues to hold its breath over a swine flu that, while perhaps slowing, is still likely to kill in the low hundreds and remains balanced on the edge of a true pandemic. Although only a mere 2-3,000 cases have -- so far -- been recorded worldwide (80 percent of them in co-sources Mexico and America), this variant of H1N1 influenza penetrated dozens of nations and all mass-populated regions of the globe in a matter of days -- a truly humbling reminder of how globalization enhances mankind's epidemiological interdependency.

Has the media overreacted? It's possible that round-the-clock coverage in the early days did generate unnecessary fear. And yet, better the word get out quickly and widely, since the best preventive measures are the simplest ones -- namely, washing hands, covering sneezes and reasonable "social distancing" (call it the Biden Doct-o-rine). So all in all, the media has done far more good than harm.

As always with such system perturbations, there are flagrant episodes of scapegoating (Beware the Mexican passport!), and more than a few governments take the opportunity to engage in sheer protectionism (e.g., Russia banning North American pork). But other than Egypt's senseless slaughter of its entire swine herd -- a non-too-subtle swipe against non-Muslim minorities -- government responses have not spun wildly out of control.

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