Good question. Today's WSJ shows the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimating 36,000 flu deaths per year. But, only 849 death certificates list "influenza" as the cause of death in 2006. CDC's estimates are way way over reported influenza deaths. CDC clearly thinks that doctors all over the country cannot diagnose properly. On the other hand, who do you believe, front line doctors or research guys on a sunny campus in Atlanta?
So how dangerous is this month's media darling disease, swine flu? Compared to regular flu? If you believe CDC's estimate of 36,000 ordinary flu deaths a year then the handful of swine flu deaths is lost in the noise. If you go with reported flu deaths of only 849 the handful of swine flu deaths becomes a bit more meaningful, although still not much.
Every death is a tragedy, each human life is precious. But life is full of risks, and if the risk is small, we shouldn't get too bent out of shape.