Bruce Sterling's got some pretty good advice for understanding swine flu in perspective:
People freak out over "pandemics," even though we've got one of the worst pandemics in history, AIDS, raging through the carcass of the body-politic right now. Every once in a while you see a street demo or a charity show about AIDS. Carla Bruni is pretty big on fighting AIDS. Otherwise we just drop dead of AIDS in hecatombs, and the pandemic has become our business as usual. AIDS is an extremely fearsome disease, practically 100% lethal, yet it's hard work to get people to remain properly afraid of it.
*There is always some flu around and flu is always killing some people. Even when a raw mutant flu manages to kill off more people than a shooting-war, flu has never ravaged whole cities as cholera or the Black Death can do. As awful pandemics go, flu is like the snotty-nosed little sister of awful pandemics.
*So if you catch the new swine flu, you're very likely not gonna die.
*But since it is a flu, you're gonna kinda WISH you could die.
*You're not ACTUALLY gonna die unless your lips are turning blue, you have bad chest pains, you can't swallow water, you can't stand up, you're having seizures and you don't know where you are or what your name is. As this document suggests, you're gonna want to watch out for those symptoms.