Swine Flu in Focus

Pat Toye asked me to come up with a list of things more likely to kill you than swine flu to help calm down his over-reactive coworkers.  Right now, with 250 infected folk and an expected mortality of 2-4%, that puts us in the 5-10 dead area.  I work with the assumption in the US that only about a 1/4 of people will actually be correctly diagnosed and seek medical attention and still die so I’m looking for things that kill between 20-40 folks a year.  This is a short list from some of the more memorable filings in the “how people die” list:

  • Being trampled by a pig
  • Attacked by a robot (malfunctioning or damaged industrial robots mostly)
  • Allergic reaction to beaver meat or other large rodents
  • Choking on a writing instrument (mostly pens and pen caps)
  • Blood loss from a laceration caused by a household appliance (excludes suicide)
  • Committing suicide after losing an RPG character (excluded as it wasn’t an accidental event)
  • Overexertion during sex or masturbation
  • Being pushed in front of a moving object
  • Immolation in one’s own sleeping cloths
  • Assault by smoke, cinder, ashes or embers

Lets compare that to the biggies:
Cancer kills someone once a minute
Heart disease kills someone once every 30 seconds

Swine flu is currently slightly deadlier (factor of between 1.5 and 2) than dying from assault by strong acids or bases, being eaten by rats, or suffocation by flatulence.  Note that mortality statistics are tough to pin point, for instance if someone has a heart attack while driving and crashing into something the death could be heart disease or motor vehicle collision, but most statistics gun for proximate cause, what initial event initiated a chain of events that resulted in mortality.  So if someone accidentally jabs themselves in the eye with a mechanical pencil and while blinded stumbles into an open manhole cover the mechanical pencil is the proximate cause.  These numbers are from a number sources including the IIS, the CIA World Factbook, the root mortality study of 1988 and other things I’ve picked up like a 2003 article in Maxim magazine and margin notes in an insurance textbook.  Use with caution.