The 10 Health Lessons of 2009

Lesson #1: Don't Panic

Woman with a cold

Swine flu was clearly the health story of 2009. When we first heard the term in April, we initially cracked jokes about bringing pigs some Kleenex. But before long, the glut of (sometimes conflicting) information tweaked our communal instincts toward panic. Words like “pandemic” scared us. Images of people wearing masks on airplanes raised our alarm. Grim historical anecdotes from the 1918 flu disaster, which killed millions, paralyzed us with fear.

Quickly we learned, though, that getting the swine flu did not mean certain death—in fact, the CDC recently estimated that 15 percent of the U.S. population has had the H1N1 swine flu, but only one-tenth of one percent—around 10,000 people—has died from it. If that sounds like a high number (and of course it is), remember: 20,000 people typically die from “regular” flu every year.

So if there's one lesson we should have learned from the swine flu in 2009, it's “Don't Panic.” But that's not the only swine flu lesson we learned...


- Keeping Swine Flu in Perspective

- Calming Swine Flu (and Other) Fears

- To Take a Sick Day, or to Not Take a Sick Day?

- How Sick Are You?

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