File this under “Shocked, shocked!”

“Experts predict flu pandemic could be mildest on record” declares the Washington Post headline. Unless, that is, you use the old definition of pandemic before the World Health Organization made it so that severity no longer counts. In that case, this would be called not a “pandemic” but “an extremely mild flu strain.

Another shocking revelation? It turns out the Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology “plausible scenario” of swine flu deaths wasn’t all that plausible. Rather than 30,000 – 90,000 Americans dead, a new study by Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch and others calculates “the virus might directly cause between 6,000 and 45,000 deaths by the end of the winter, with the final toll probably falling somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000.”

Insofar as according to the CDC’s estimate we already had about 4,000 deaths by mid-October, that means there may not be that many more fatalities. And mind you, those are not net deaths. In other words, it doesn’t take into account the protective effect we’ve seen in Australia and New Zealand whereby people are inoculated by the mild swine flu so they don’t die from the vastly more severe seasonal flu. In other words, expect a final toll from flu overall to be fewer cases this year – judging from the aforementioned cases far fewer.

Lipsitch, not incidentally, helped come up with that notorious 30,000 – 90,000 number.”Those were the best estimates we could make at the time based on the data available at the time,” Lipsitch told the Post. Really? Then how was non-epidemiologist Michael Fumento able to immediately show the figure was utterly absurd? Am I some sort of Nostradamus who prefers debunking government studies to making a killing at the race track. Or was the PCAST report clearly nonsense from the outset, designed not to inform but to panic?