I think I finally understand how health-related nomenclature works in the age of twenty-four-hour cable news:
- 1 unconfirmed case: the preferred term is "epidemic"; international news is preempted from the usual news broadcasts. Teasers between programs advise: "Is your child at risk of a lingering and painful death? — find out at eleven."
- 1 confirmed case: "pandemic"; all domestic news except high-profile sex scandals is preempted. Anderson Cooper announces a special investigation.
- 2–4 confirmed cases: "global panic"; cable news networks go into round-the-clock-coverage mode. New computer graphics are rolled out: "WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!"
- 5 or more confirmed cases: "apocalypse"; all coverage is devoted to the unfolding holocaust. Only stories about attractive white girls who've disappeared have any chance of bumping the global plague from the news.