Sunday, May 3, 2009

Death by the numbers

Swine flu (or whatever is the preferred name for the disease today) is a serious matter. Some have died; more have been sickened. For them and their family statistics hardly matter.

Then there's the rest of us ...

The death toll in the US from the recent, endlessly ballyhooed disease is -- one. To put that in perspective, check out leading causes of death in 2005 in the US (latest available complete data, from Centers for Disease Control):
  • Heart disease: 652,091
  • Cancer: 559,312
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 143,579
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 130,933
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 117,809
  • Diabetes: 75,119
  • Alzheimer's disease: 71,599
  • Influenza/Pneumonia: 63,001
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 43,901
  • Septicemia: 34,136
Again according to the CDC, about 80 people in the US die annually from lightning.

I don't know about you, but to me the swine-flu coverage (and concern) seems more than a little disproportionate.

Meanwhile, our vice president has responded to this situation by announcing he's advised his family to avoid air travel and mass transit. That doesn't exactly give me a warm-and-fuzzy about how clearheaded would be his response to other issues that may come his way. (My guess: If Bush 43 had been the one to make that statement, the press would be pillorying him.)

As an exercise in sociology, press and government reaction to the outbreak is fascinating. As public policy ... ugh.


sodhner said...

I posted my take on it HERE.

These things are always blown out of proportion, but a certain amount of public awareness is probably a good thing. It's hard to say, of course - we can't have the exact same disease twice and try it both ways. The media as a whole loves to talk about impending doom though, you can't stop it.

As for Biden... I like Obama but Biden is a gaff factory. Was that a bad choice by Obama, or some clever diversionary tactic, or...? Whatever, it's embarrassing.

Catreona said...

While I am not a fan of Bush 43, I agree with you on this one. I also agree in being impatient with the panicked media coverage. Not that such coverage is unusual. The media seems to thrive on panic.