So far, Mexican officials have counted 68 dead from “swine flu.”

Naturally, everyone’s in a panic… the same way they got scared when the big threat was “bird flu” … and SARS … and ebola … and “Africanized bees.”

One might be forgiven for feeling a little underwhelmed by this year’s incarnation of the “let’s scare everyone with the latest deadly outbreak” story. We just did “bird flu” a couple years ago, so it would have been natural to hope for something a little fresher than “swine flu” — say, pachyderm dengue fever, or maybe marmot pox. Can’t we get a “reptile herpes” or something?

Anyway, when avian influenza was the Big Story, I did a little research and discovered that even considering the most alarmist of death counts, the virus managed only to kill a tiny fraction of the number of people killed every year by the “regular” flu.

UPDATE: I dealt with the bird flu hysteria here and here, on my old site.