"There is ample reason for concern: a new flu virus has emerged to which humans have no immunity, and it is spreading from person to person. That has happened only three times in the past century."
That sounds kinda scary. Is it accurate? Would we have recognized the current H1N1 epidemic in its current form 100 years ago? Pinpointing flu strains down to the molecular level in thousands of patients worldwide, and integrated monitoring on the internet in real-time? It doesn't really seem reasonable to conclude there have only been three epidemics of this sort in the past century. Is our picture of the current, largely non-lethal flu epidemic not based entirely on technological revolutions of the past several years? How many swine or bird flu "pandemics" have gone totally unrecognized because of technological limitations? I guess we'll never know. Just like we have no idea when or if the swine flu will turn into some sort of apocalypse as most of the mainstream media would have had you believe a couple weeks ago. Of course there's always a chance. Like getting struck by lighting. Does anyone have the balls to put some numbers on this shit? I certainly don't.
I'd be surprised if our ability to predict the time of occurrence of a deadly flu pandemic has changed appreciably since 1909. How about we all agree that vigilant monitoring (as we are clearly already seeing) and balanced communication with the public (as we are often lacking) are important and leave the predictions, doomsday or otherwise, to Nostradamus?
See: Between A Virus and Hard Place