It was inevitable really - gone are the stories of soaring mortality rates and brave speeches issued from behind the sandbags at Richmond House.

Instead, deceit and incompetence abound: the swine flu backlash has truly begun.

“Nine in 10 swine flu cases are colds”, The People tuts. A quarter of swine flu victims off work are actually “skivers”, the Daily Star claims.

Tens of thousands have “faked swine flu symptoms to persuade the NHS to issue them with antiviral drugs”, The Independent reveals.

The paper adds “unless the government has seriously underestimated the scale of the epidemic, many of those prescribed Tamiflu are stockpiling it to be sure of having access to the powerful drug if and when they or members of their family contract the illness”.

But before we start questioning the moral fibre of the thousands stashing Tamiflu under mattresses, maybe we should ask why so many people have been putting on their best sick voices to phone up an NHS hotline, or forking out £50 to buy the drug online.

Could it be because of the blood curdling headlines this column has been highlighting over the last couple of months, including the claim that swine flu is “the biggest challenge in a generation”.

Undoubtedly, the pandemic is one of the biggest logistical challenges to face NHS managers. But so far it seems less dangerous to health than the headlines suggest, raising two issues.

First, if media hype has led to well people stockpiling Tamiflu, then it is the hype that has caused the inefficient use of NHS resources. Second, if the pandemic takes a more deadly turn, will anyone who has been on the media rollercoaster from panic to indifference take subsequent public health messages seriously?