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H1N1: Avoid "the boy who cried wolf" effect

Posted Sep 04 2009 10:45am
From the LA Times blog:
Since the outbreak this spring of the novel H1N1, public health officials have treated the new so-called swine flu as if it were a replay of the devastating 1918 Spanish flu, which claimed tens of millions of victims and was particularly devastating to people who were otherwise young and healthy...

What’s wrong with preparing for the worst-case scenario? Plenty, Doshi writes. The SARS panic prompted involuntary quarantines, travel restrictions, and led to at least $18 billion in economic losses. In the end, the number of people affected by the response to the virus was much greater than the number of people infected by it.
The blog discusses a BMJ article by Peter Doshi, which notes:
... pandemic preparedness strategies have largely considered only type 1 (catastrophic) epidemics. Public health responses not calibrated to the threat may be perceived as alarmist, eroding the public trust and resulting in people ignoring important warnings when serious epidemics do occur.
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