June 24th, 2003

Me 2012

Somebody Tell Me Again Why I'm Supposed to Be Worried

According to the Wall Street Journal, SARS, the latest thing in terrifying disease, has infected 8,810 people worldwide, of whom, 802 have died.

Now, not to trivialize the deaths of anyone, but why, exactly, is this such a big deal? Let's take, oh, the flu, for comparison purposes. You know, that virus that some people get shots for every year, and many just take their chances and suffer with when they acquire it.

According to the Center for Disease Control, about 36,000 people die of the flu in the United States alone every year.

Granted, I don't know what percentage of people who contract the flu die of it every year, but I do expect the chance-of-death for people who've contracted the flu is considerably lower than the 9.1% that SARS is currently running at. Still, look at the overall odds for the USA, here:

Flu Deaths: 36,000
SARS Deaths: 0

I mean, you've got to figure this shouldn't be a big issue for us, right? If we're going to panick over something, it ought to be all those people who stagger in to work, guzzling cough medicine and suppressing nausea and running fevers of 102. Because they're the ones killing us. Not the people who happen to run a Chinese restuarant.

Really -- what am I missing here? Why does SARS get so much publicity? Why is this such a big deal? Is it somehow especially contagious and deadly, and yet, by dint of sheer medical know-how, quarantine, and treatment, the overall number of cases and deaths have been kept astonishingly low?

What's the big deal?