See John Robb's new post at http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/johnrobb/2009/05/chance-to-mutate.html. He raises an important question about swine flu mutation risks. This question is also being raised by emminent epidemologists and virologists.
John is the author of the outstanding NYT bestseller, Brave New War, describing how super-empowering technologies will change geopolitics and global security. Buy this book.
As an example of what John's new post questions, the 1918 flu was often called "the three day flu" because it was so consistently mild during its first pass.
Regarding John's question, how might I find the frequency with which past new flu strains became more lethal as they mutated? Both the WHO & CDC have emphasized this danger but neither has quantified the recorded historical frequency despite having data on (dozens?) of past new strains.
Another interesting historical question, one which might yet have immense policy significance: if, as the WSJ recently reported, the best science then suggested that the 1970's swine flu virus had "only" (sic) a 2-20% chance of becoming a global pandemic, wasn't President Ford's much maligned aggressive response a most important best choice given the information then available?