If It Bleeds It Leads – and I am getting really tired of cable and network news blathering on about The Next Great Scary Bacteria/Virus. First, let’s get some perspective – there are an estimated 316,148,990 people in the United States. [Census]
Remember the West Nile Virus? If memory serves, the media served up mosquito pictures on television screens and print versions ad nauseam not so many years ago. The largest number of cases occurred in 2003, at 9,862. There were a grand total of 39,557 cases of which only 1,668 were fatal, between 1999 and 2013. [CDC pdf] Do the arithmetic. Divide 39,557 by 316,148,990 on your handy plastic calculator. (Ans: 1.2521 e-4)
Remember SARS? The coronavirus showed up in 2003. Lord knows how many “travel alerts” there were, and how many were reported as major news stories. By April 2003 there were 115 suspected SARS cases in the U.S. reported from 29 states, there were no deaths reported. By the end of the year the World Health Organization reported 8,096 cases globally, leading to 774 deaths. In the United States there were 8 SARS infections documented by laboratory testing and an additional 19 probable cases. [CDC] Again, play with the arithmetic problem: Divide 115 by 316,148,990. What are the odds someone will contract SARS?
Now it’s Ebola! A virus which is relatively difficult to contract, but whose photograph graces the pages and screens, along with breathless speculation about how control this “ISIS of Viral Evil.” Thus far we have 1, repeat ONE, case reported in the United States. One case, one fatality. And that of a man who sought treatment, was turned away from a hospital in Dallas, TX – which has some explaining to do to his family – and so far that’s IT.
Yes, this is a nasty virus. It is also primarily running rampant in west Africa, a region generally ignored by the U.S. media even when uncivil wars are decimating the populations, but there’s a reason the medical professionals in the U.S. aren’t panicking like, say CNN, for Faux News, or some “billionaire with bad hair:”
“It’s important for us to remember here in the US that the likelihood of an outbreak due to bringing back two patients with Ebola virus disease is incredibly small, and that conditions here in the US and other developed nations are such that it is unlikely that such an outbreak, even in the unlikely event that it happened, would spread very far, given the differences in medical care, availability of resources, and differences in funeral practices. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be vigilant, but there is really nothing particularly unusual about Ebola virus other than the rapid onset and severity of the disease it causes.” [SciBMed]
Meanwhile — The CDC reports 11,068 firearm homicides, with a death per 100K of 3.6 [CDC] The last CDC report showed 39,518 suicides, of which 19,990 were completed with firearms; death per 100K at 12.7. [CDC] Now, if a virus had killed 31,058 people in a single year – that would be a story. However, we can’t consider the epidemic of gun violence as a public health problem because the GOP controlled House of Representatives refuses a meager $10 million for funding gun violence prevention research. The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics begged for the research funding, but Republicans and the NRA said we simply need to “prosecute more people, not carry out more studies.” [ProPublica]
Meanwhile – Heart disease will kill 596,577 people in the United States, and another 73,831 will die from Diabetes. So, faced with this obvious public health problem, what did the U.S. Congress do? Republicans sponsored a bill to roll back school nutrition standards. [MMA] The implications are obvious, Republicans are favoring the food manufacturing interests over the advice of professional nutrition experts. Oh, and did we remember that the “School Nutrition Assoc.” receives most of its funding from companies which sell food to schools?
Meanwhile – What are we doing to cut the numbers of stroke victims (128,932)? Cancer victims (576,691)? Chronic respiratory disease victims (142,943)? Alzheimer’s victims (84,974)? Flu and Pneunomia (53,862)? Nephritis (45,591)? We cut the budget for the Centers for Disease Control.
“The agency’s budget in 2014 is $5.9 billion, compared to the $6.5 billion allotted in 2010. Last year’s budget deal delayed the across-the-board sequester cuts until fiscal 2016, but the law required the CDC to cut 5 percent, or more than $285 million, from its fiscal 2013 budget, the agency said.” [TheHill]
And while the right wing is screaming about how we’re not being kept safe from Ebola and ISIS, or Ebola and ISIS, or Ebola with ISIS, or ISIS with Ebola, what did the GOP House do to the funding for the agency tasked with securing public health?
The sequester resulted in a $195 million cut in 2013 to the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, which aims to prevent illness and death by a wide variety of infectious diseases, according to the CDC. A CDC report from earlier this year also noted its funding for public health preparedness and response activities was $1 billion lower in fiscal 2013 than in 2002. [TheHill]
However, all the statistics in the world won’t be as entertaining as Jon Stewart’s rendition of the Million Ways to Die in the U.S. DO click and enjoy!