By the Numbers

Larger Pandemic: Swine Flu Virus or Swine Flu Hype?

Riders on the subway in Mexico City

With governments scrambling, global health organizations offering dire warnings, flu masks flying off the shelves and the news media running around-the-clock coverage of the imminent swine flu "pandemic," is the hype more out of control than the virus itself?

A look at the latest numbers might indicate so.

According to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and government officials (as reported by the Associated Press), the virus continues to spread around the world.

Confirmed Cases:
Mexico - 343
United States - 146
Canada  - 35
Spain - 13
UK - 10
New Zealand - 4
Germany - 4
Israel - 2
Denmark - 1
Switzerland - 1
Austria  - 1
Netherlands - 1
China – 1

While the numbers are alarming, one has to wonder if some of the drastic measures and dire warnings are warranted for an outbreak that in reality is affecting such a small proportion of the population.

Percentage of Population Infected with H1N1 influenza A (a.k.a. Swine Flu):
Mexico -  0.00030842053984%
United States - 0.000047524166226%
Canada  - 0.000104517522034%
Spain - 0.00003207896202%
UK - 0.000016363075705%
New Zealand - 0.000094934801152%
Germany - 0.000004858510576%
Israel - 0.000027648364233%
Denmark - 0.000018180132388%
Switzerland - 0.000013150165554%
Austria - 0.000012179851092%
Netherlands - 0.000005982292772%
China - 0.000000074704192%

Source: Latest population estimates for 2009 from the CIA World Factbook

So far, there have been only 15 confirmed deaths by swine flu in Mexico, and one additional death in the United States. (It should be noted that the U.S. case occurred in a Houston hospital, but involved a toddler from Mexico who died receiving medical care in the United States).

Finally, using one last statistical comparison, the percent of the population to have died by H1N1 Influenza A in the United States so far is 0.000000325507988%—noticeably less than the annual percentage of Americans who die at the hands of lightning strikes (0.000023762083113%, according to average lightning strike data from the National Weather Service).

Maybe it's time to dial back the hysteria a little, at least for now.

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