On Friday I stood before an audience in Phoenix, Arizona and attempted to shock them with something similar to a repeat of Orson Welles’ War Of The Worlds radio broadcast, a 1938 Halloween night radio announcement that said, in a series of news bulletins, Martians had landed on the earth. The public cowered in fear then, even when Welles announced it was just a radio drama, not reality.
The contrived crisis I created was the President of the United States had just announced a national emergency because of a massive number of deaths attributed to a fast-spreading strain of flu virus that had combined with a mortal form of flu virus. My hand was shaking as I read the announcement. People in the audience thought it was real. The audience began to squirm and wonder, before I finished my melodrama, just how they were going to return home without having to undergo forced vaccination at the airport.
They were relieved when I told them this crisis was purely fictional. I added the announcement for just such a contrived crisis was probably already programmed into the President’s teleprompter. Little did I know how true these words were to become.
To my surprise, on the afternoon of the following day (Saturday), the President of the United States had indeed declared a national emergency due to 1000 reported flu deaths, 100 of them among children. These deaths had occurred over the past eight months.
But 1000 accumulated deaths would be far fewer than the mortality figures the Centers for Disease Control distributes – estimated at 36,000 annual flu deaths. Federal health authorities lump pneumonia deaths among the elderly with flu-related deaths to falsely inflate flu mortality figures. My own guesstimate is that only about 6000 flu-related deaths actually occur each year, but even using this figure for comparison, this year’s flu outbreak appears weak. An estimated 20,000 hospitalizations have been reported since this pandemic flu strain began in March of 2009, which amounts to only about 625 hospitalizations per week spread among more than 5 thousand hospitals...