I'm really not sure from where the panic over H1N1 (swine) flu comes, but I have some faith that it's going to kill more people than the virus. Take, for example, the mad rush to buy hand sanitizer:
Stores are quickly being depleted of products used to help stave off or battle the flu, a combination of swine, bird and human virus strains that in some cases has been fatal. The disease is suspected in at least 160 deaths, the majority in Mexico. The only reported U.S. death was that of a toddler in Houston.
There are nine probable cases in Illinois, five of them in Chicago, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported Wednesday. An elementary school on the city’s North Side was shut down Wednesday after a child was diagnosed with what is believed to be swine flu.
I don't have the exact numbers here, but I would imagine that more than one extra person will die and more than nine extra people will be injured because of people driving to the store to buy hand sanitizer than would otherwise be killed or injured without the extra driving. It's like the rise in traffic fatalities after 9/11, attributed to a mix of more driving and stress, both of which came at least partially from blind fear.
Of course, it's possible that this flu could be the end of civilization. History suggests otherwise.
But if it makes people feel better, by all means jump in your cars and buy toxic chemicals to rub on your hands in a futile effort to kill invisible agents of your...um...sneezing. Even better if you drive to the store without wearing a seatbelt.