Swine Flu: to fear is to fail

Whenever a crisis unfolds -- and we've seen many in recent years -- the famous line Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered in his 1933 inaugural address comes to mind: "The only thing we have to fear is, fear itself."

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He spoke of how fear deepened the nation's paralysis during the Great Depression. But current events illustrate how true his words remain today.

When the economy faltered last year, fear took over and made the recession deeper than it might have otherwise become. Bankers panicked and credit froze, making it nearly impossible for people to buy things and for companies to meet payroll.

Before the Great Depression, during the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-19, fear caused the government to downplay what was happening. The result was more panic and more death because citizens lacked advice that could have been helpful.

Fast-forward to April 2009: Swine flu is spreading from Mexico to other parts of the globe and fear is again taking hold. Cable news anchors are practically yelling at us as they report the latest infections and deaths. People are walking around wearing masks and are afraid to go near pork.

The public should be concerned. The World Health Organization has raised its pandemic alert level from Phase 3 to 4, indicating that swine flu has achieved the ability to spread human-to-human. We're not officially in a pandemic until WHO raises the alert level to Phase 6. [See: A Pandemic Preparedness Primer]

At least one death in the US has been linked to swine flu, and more are sure to follow.

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