Ezra Klein goes all epidemiological in response to Joe Biden's (perhaps undisciplined) remarks on The Today Show, the likes of which the United States Travel Association probably had in mind when they asked public officials to "resist inflammatory comments on Swine Flu."
Fortunately (except for those whose health was already compromised), those who study influenza for a living see this particular flu strain as relatively mild, according to the LA Times.
"There are certain characteristics, molecular signatures, which this virus lacks," said Peter Palese, a microbiologist and influenza expert at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York. In particular, the swine flu lacks an amino acid that appears to increase the number of virus particles in the lungs and make the disease more deadly.
Flu viruses are known to be notoriously unpredictable, and this strain could mutate at any point -- becoming either more benign or dangerously severe. But mounting preliminary evidence from genetics labs, epidemiology models and simple mathematics suggests that the worst-case scenarios are likely to be avoided in the current outbreak.
Speaking of flu viruses, What ever happened to Avian flu?