To that nagging question, the answer increasingly seems to be yes.

Certainly, they were a novelty. As novelist Lionel Shriver writes, "We've never before responded to a contagion by closing down whole countries." As I noted in May, the 1957-58 Asian flu killed between 70,000 and 116,000 Americans, between 0.04% and 0.07% of the nation's population. The 1968-70 Hong Kong flu killed about 100,000, 0.05% of the population.

Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.

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