I had not previously understood what seemed such an over-reaction to bird flu. Bird flu is closely related to the influenza strain of 1918. There is reason to be concerned. With modern transportation and larger more crowded populations, particularly in the poor countries, a pandemic today could spread faster and kill more people than in 1918.
Just as the influenza of 1918 overshadowed the war and revolutions of those years, a pandemic would make the issues of today seem insignificant.