One of the biggest (and many) differences between the influenza epidemic of 1918 and what's going on now with the Swine Flu, is that in 1918, we really didn't have the drugs to fight back against diseases. Today, we do, and the companies who make them are in the spotlight.
Gilead Sciences, based in the Silicon Valley, makes TamiFlu, an oral flu vaccine, that may be able to help those who are sick. BioCryst is a smaller company; it's developing another flu vaccine. The same can be said for companies like Roche, Vical, and Novavax.
Typically, these drug companies work in the shadows, emerging on the public (and investor) radar screen only when they have something to show off. A cure, a new drug trial, that sort of thing. Today, though, all sorts of attention is being payed to the biotech sector, because when the world fears a flu epidemic, it means revenue possibilites for companies who can fight the flu.
Call them the Flu Fighters: Lab workers and scientists, toiling to beat back viruses by developing new drugs. For Silicon Valley companies, that often means partnering with -or being bought by- larger East Coast drug giants (see: Abbott, Genentech, etc). Like most of these deals, the money is spent on potential. I always say, biotech stocks, as cool as they are (after all, you are investing in life-saving technology here...), are extremely speculative. We've seen lots of companies raise the roof on potential, only to fail drug tests, and see their share prices fall back to earth.
So if you buy, buy carefully. There is potential here, if the Swine Flu turns out to be a very big deal. The greater the need, the more the world (and investors) will turn to biotech companies and their drugs.