- Coronavirus continues to rage in China. The official death toll is 2,345, while total cases crossed 76,000 this week.
- But more people have died in the United States from taking a selfie than contracting coronavirus.
- While black swan events like this pandemic garner more attention, the predictable threats to human life and health are more preventable.
Coronavirus continues to ravage China and neighboring countries three weeks after the World Health Organization declared it a global emergency. The official death toll in China is now 2,345, while the number of cases has increased past 76,000.
And two weeks ago, a Chinese billionaire with a history of blowing the whistle on his former government claimed the real coronavirus fatality numbers are much higher.
In Korea, coronavirus cases spiked past 150 this week.
But putting the deadly pandemic in perspective, you’re more likely to die from using your cell phone in the United States than contracting coronavirus.
US Coronavirus Cases Remain Low
The viral epidemic has been rampant in China, where it originated in the city of Wuhan. But in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control has only confirmed 14 cases.
Only one American has died from coronavirus, a 60-year-old at a hospital in Wuhan, ground zero for the disease. In comparison, 26 people have died in the U.S. since 2014 from taking selfies or being near someone who took a selfie in an unsafe situation.
All of these cases involved people taking selfies in unsafe situations. Some examples are: on railroad tracks, while driving, or while posing near dangerous animals.
Further, in 2014 – which Twitter declared “The Year of The Selfie” –some 33,000 people were injured while using a cell phone and driving.
Putting Threats to Human Health In Perspective
Coronavirus garners media attention because it’s a black swan event. That’s something unexpected that couldn’t have been predicted that has an enormous impact on society.
But far more people die every year from predictable, and therefore ostensibly more preventable, causes. The Scientific American reports the seasonal flu has killed 10,000 Americans this year alone. Yet fewer than half of Americans get their flu vaccine.
According to the University of Chicago Medical Center:
A 2017 study confirmed that flu vaccination reduced deaths, admissions to intensive care units, time spent in an ICU or in the hospital.
Yet many Americans still skip getting vaccinated. Even though the flu is far more deadly than coronavirus. That’s because of lingering misconceptions. Many still believe that vaccines don’t work or even give you the flu. But science has long settled these beliefs are false.
Deaths on America’s roadways are still among the greatest and constant threats to human life and health. In 2010 before most people even had smartphones, the National Safety Council estimated drivers using cell phones caused 1.6 million crashes each year.
If all of these crashes resulted in property damage only, the economic cost would be $12 billion annually. But the average economic loss from car crashes that cause injuries or death is much higher. Plus the priceless human toll.
The human and economic toll of texting while driving isn’t remotely comparable to coronavirus. Neither is the seasonal flu. Yet the public is fixated on coronavirus.
This article was edited by Gerelyn Terzo.
Last modified: February 22, 2020 1:08 PM UTC