The World Health Organization has declared the H1N1 virus is now pandemic. As story, this merely confirmation of what has been obvious for a while. What it means in practical terms is that governments now stage up to deal with widespread disease. The actual threat is not so much from the virus as is currently presents itself, as from what it might become, especially as it moves back into the northern hemisphere from the southern.
The influenza epidemic of 1914 remains of more than historical interest because it is a model for the spread of infectious diseases in humans, and problem that is only exacerbated by modern transportation and a global economy. One theory holds that the disease originated in the US, but another theory has been advanced that the critical jump occurred in the British military camps in France. Further, recent research says that most deaths were not from the virus itself, but from pneumonia, which means the disease would have been treatable if antibiotics had been available. An NPR story concludes that: "The new research suggests that with the availability of effective treatments for bacterial infections, a modern-day flu pandemic might not be so deadly." However, the fear f public health officials is that the next plague will be viral and we still do not have overly effective means—or enough of what we do have—to fight one of that type. In addition, the widespread use of antibiotics means that there are increasing numbers of bacteria resistant to not merely one antibiotic, but combinations.