Thursday, August 30, 2012

Let's All Calm Down About West Nile, Folks

Between trying to avoid the coverage of the Republican National Convention (no offense, guys--I will do the same for the Dems shortly) and winding down my vacation time, I haven't been soaking in much news this week. That said, it's almost impossible not to turn on a radio or flip through internet news sites without hearing some story about how West Nile Virus is sweeping the country. Normally I offer links for curious readers, but there are so many stories right now there's no point to it, as all one needs to do is to google the virus for the latest.

But before we all lose our collective heads over this outbreak, let's traffic in some numbers. As of  August 28 there have been 66 deaths attributed to West Nile out of 1,590 known cases of the disease. Now a 4 percent mortality is nothing to sniff at, but the overall number of cases is incredibly small. By comparison, as of mid-August the number of children who died from influenza--a disease whose mention hardly registers a batted eyelash at Labor Day cookouts--numbered 34, with a considerably higher number in adults (measuring adult influenza deaths is trickier, but suffice it to say that it's a much much larger number than that).

I could go on in this vein for awhile using different diseases for comparison. The point is that 66 deaths or 1500 illnesses in a country of 300 million people is not cause for panic. Getting into your automobile is considerably more dangerous than getting bitten by a skeeter while going for an evening run in Texas, the state with the most cases and deaths by far in the US. Don't put those sneakers away just yet (though the Rubin Blog does recommend putting on an inspect spray before lacing up). So let's all take a deep breath, folks.