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Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) garnered a great deal of public attention because it was novel and its potential for spread was unknown. However, the SARS corona virus is significantly less virulent than pandemic influenza viral infections. The annual number of deaths for seasonal influenza is 36,000 people in the United States and 250,000- 500,000 worldwide. However, highly pathogenic influenza pandemics have occurred roughly 2-3 times per century, causing untold morbidity and mortality. The Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918 was believed to have caused over 20 million deaths in a world less than one-third the size of the current global population; modern epidemiologists now estimate that over 50 million people died. Moreover, these deaths did not occur primarily among infants and old people, as suggested by conventional wisdom. Approximately half the deaths were among people in the prime of their lives. As John Barry explains in his recent book, "One cannot know with certainty, but if the upper estimate of the death toll is true as many as 8 to 10 percent of all young adults then living may have been killed by the virus. And they died with extraordinary ferocity and speed."

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32 J.L. Med. & Ethics 565 (2004)