Friday, May 08, 2009

Swine Flu and Overreaction: How Would We Know?

There has been grumbling about an overreaction to the swine flu outbreak. The government has been too heavy-handed, the line goes. But what evidence can one have for this claim? We know what it would look like if the reaction was insufficient, but it seems that too much and just right give us the same observable consequences -- a small number of cases of the flu. But surely, overreaction is a possibility. My question is how do we make that attribution? If two epidemiologists were arguing about whether the government's steps were sufficient or beyond reasonable, what would they point to as data in support of one viewpoint or the other?