THE LESSONS OF SWINE FLU.

It's looking like swine flu doesn't have the genetic capability to mutate into anything especially lethal. The high death toll in Mexico may simply be evidence that the disease was much more widespread than was initially understood. All of which is very good news.

But it's also a teachable moment of sorts. The influenza might prove relatively harmless. But it could have been a reaper bug. And in that case, if Mexico's aggressive public health response had been a little less effective, the consequences could have been catastrophic. Indeed, in the past couple of years, we've had at least a couple close calls. SARS was incredibly deadly but never became terribly infectious. Swine flu was quite infectious but didn't become particularly deadly. Both originated in relatively poor areas. All of which is to say, there are a lot of issues in foreign aid that are matters of compassion rather than direct national interest. A lack of secondary education doesn't jump borders or kill Americans. But an influenza strain does. No one exactly wants to invest lots more money into building up the pubic health infrastructure of poorer countries, but it's the sort of thing that might save us a lot of money -- not to mention a lot of lives -- if it works.

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