Pigs, Relativity, Statistics and What Sells…

Apr 28


Florence Bernard

Florence Bernard

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A few puzzled thoughts about the swine flu phobia.


I am blown away by the psychosis going on worldwide about this new flu virus that very sadly killed a number of people in Mexico.  It is not at all my intention to undermine the danger or the gravity and tragedy for the families who lost their loved ones to this virus.  However,Pigs, Relativity, Statistics and What Sells… Articles I would like a little bit of relativity and perspective in media coverage and allow people to live a normal life, without the phobia of some obscure virus.

Here are some statistics:

In 2007, there were 41,059 road deaths in the US.  This, by the way, was the lowest since 1994.  It is a pretty high number really if you bring it back to the reality of distraught families, children, parents, husbands and wives.  Everybody can somehow relate to that.  I lived in the Cayman Islands for 7 years.  That number is more or less the population of the island I lived on.  So in one year, it would be like almost an entire –albeit small – country destroyed. 

Now let’s look at it from another perspective:  There are just over 300 million inhabitants in the US.  Going back to my 4th or 5th grade class (or was it later or earlier?), let me see if I can come up with a percentage.  Please correct me if I am wrong: 41,059 out of 300,000,000 comes to about 0.013% of the population.  It doesn’t seem like a lot any more, does it?

Cancer deaths are in the 500,000 yearly.  That’s approximately 0.17% of the population. Cardiovascular diseases claim around 900,000 lives on average, i.e. 0.3% of the population.  The total death rate in the US in 2008 was 8.27 per 1000 population, in other words 0.8%.  The average death rate in Africa is about 13 or 14 per 1000, which is almost double.  Some African countries reach the sad record of close to 30 per 1000.

So back to the US:  As I am writing this, the airwaves are raving all over the world about 40 cases of a new form of flu that has not killed anyone yet in this country.  40 cases!!!!  Out of 300 million people living in the US!  Do you want to know what percentage that is of non-dead people?  0.00013%!!!  Since when is that an epidemic?

Why have we been hearing about this constantly over the last few days?  Airlines are cancelling flights to Mexico, people are cancelling their vacation…  We have created a phobia!  There are, as I write this, about 1600 alleged cases of the swine flu in Mexico, 149 confirmed deaths.  There are almost 110 million inhabitants in Mexico, about 20 million of which are in Mexico City.  Do I need to do the math?  

Can we focus on the fact that 99.99987% of the American population does not have the swine flu?  Can we focus on the fact that, this year, 99.2% of the American population is actually going to live and enjoy life?  Can we remember that thousands of people drive their car every day and come back home safe?  Can we be aware of all the life around us and enjoy it?

I would like to dare the media, just for one week, to show only positive news, to show the reality of the world and not just the drama, blood and twisted news that they always show.  For each car crash that makes the headline, there have been thousands of safe trips in the very same spot.  For each case of the swine flu, there are thousands healthy and happy kids in schools’ playground.  Let’s put things into perspective and carry on living life!