P stands for pandemic. And this article nicely describes the predicament of policymakers as they grapple with the early stages of a possible outbreak in a new strain of influenza. At best, they are basing their policies on educated guesses, with the emphasis on guessing since data is in short supply.
This situation is akin to the one described in Chapter 2 of Numbers Rule Your World. At this point of the investigation, they only identified one cluster of cases, in the U.S. that can be traced back to pigs. "We don't want to overplay or underplay... we're trying to get that right." according to an official at WHO. Nice goal but unfortunately, unrealistic. The reality is that there are winners and losers on either side of this zero-sum decision. Public health advocates have little to lose from false alarms - they have the "better safe than sorry" mentality. Powerful business lobbies have much to lose from false alarms - and their voices are being heard: WHO has been warned not to call this "swine flu", according to the journalist.