It is(was?) considered an epidemic because of its rapid spread, and resistance to containment - not because of its lethality. Of course, the droves of limpid-eyed cattle hear a word as loaded by movies and fear of authority as "epidemic," and they panic. "SAVE US!" Actions speak louder than words - despite inundating themselves in a society designed to stroke their egos, they intuitively recognize that they actually are weak, so when confronted with a perceived threat, they have no choice but to appeal to the authority they claim to be evil and unnecessary. Mass media lives and dies by its reliance on shock, and on pure numbers("no such thing as bad publicity"), so it panders to the lumpenprole scare - and the two feed off each other. Medical industry making money off such a thing hardly seems, or even needs, to be a cause - people are too stupid to require fooling.
In the meantime, despite the panicky, voluminous bleating, death rates remain stable, and nothing of note happens. Flowers wilt and seeds germinate, just as they have for eons.