I must have read 25,000 words on the H1N1 flu this week. There was no way to avoid it in the newspapers, on blogs, even out on the streets, where a neighborhood woman wore a mask to walk her dog. I chatted with friends who sit on hospital preparedness committees, who’ve spent years planning for enough beds and ventilators and staffing for just such a catastrophe and who, as the week wore on, were increasingly baffled by the sense of urgency over a bug that seemed relatively mild in the pantheon of mass killers.
It’s amazing how much we care about something like pandemic flu when we’re scared, but are we missing the point? Nicholas Kristof’s column in today’s Times says it best — the problem for the future isn’t too little Tamiflu, or the ineffectiveness of face masks. Rather, imagine forty-seven million uninsured Americans delaying medical attention because they might just get better, add in a truly novel infectious disease, and you have just the kind of crisis we imagined so well this week.