I brought this up in a Metafilter thread recently, and was, if not shouted down, at least soundly spanked. While there have been 321 deaths thus far as a result of SARS, the World Health Organization has recently mentioned that there are over 3000 children dying every day from malaria at the moment, in Africa alone.
That’s a lot of dead babies, friends.
I will hasten to note that I do think SARS is a worry, and is not solely a media-homunculus, shoved into the spotlight to terrify and entertain us until the next Big Scary Thing comes along. It is a Big Scary Thing in its own right, and will hopefully be contained before it becomes Captain Trips.
Nonetheless, I thought a few illustrations might help to put things into perspective. If we set SARS Patient Zero have occurred on February 12 of this year, these are the way the numbers look as of April 28 2003, according to the WHO. Each tiny black dot is a human life.

Deaths from SARS, February 12 2003 to present : 321
321 deaths

Let’s have a look at some more happy fun numbers!

SARS infections, February 12 2003 to present : 5050
5050 SARS cases
African children dead from malaria, February 12 2003 to present : 228,000
228000 dead children

You be the judge of where the real story lies. One hopes that SARS does not reach such massive proportions, and if it does not, equally hopes (with resignation that it won’t happen, of course) that some attention will turn to the adults and children (who in Africa are dying at a rate of one every 30 seconds) suffering from malaria.
[I am indebted to vendian.org for the building blocks of the dot images, and this for inspiration.]

Trippy Visuals, Man, Uncrappy

Join the conversation! 18 Comments

  1. Good point & good graphs.
    Now do a graph for the number of innocent civilians killed by the US in their war of aggression in Iraq.

  2. Thought about something along those lines, but it was a bit offtopic.

  3. Just visited the WHO web site looking for mortality statistics. I found one page stating that 53.9 million people die each year, making the dots somewhat insignificant, but can’t navigate the freaking site to find any more freaking information. My question is – how many people die every year trying to find information on the damn WHO web site? And, why do I think of the old band or great material for a modern rip-off of the old Abbot and Costello skit when I read some of some of the WHO headlines?

  4. I heard this on NPR the other day. I too find it rather silly that everyone’s getting their panties in a bunch over a six percent mortality rate. I guess African kids aren’t very newsworthy.

  5. every single time i visit a blog/journal and i see someone loudly proclaiming how dangerous SARS is, i quietly point out that each day more people die slipping and falling in their bathtubs.
    no one ever responds. 🙁

  6. Striking visual comparison

    Troubled Diva links to this striking (and disturbing) visual comparison between the number of SARS deaths, number of SARS infections…

  7. SARSthrax

    A good friend of mine and I got to talking about the SARS this weekend. The conversation was a short

  8. Stavros, I double-dog-dare you to post that, complete with graphs, to MeFi, either as a FPP or a comment in another SARS thread!

  9. well, a 6% mortality rate can be pretty serious in a sufficiently contagious disease.
    the 1918/19 influenze pandemic killed 20 to 40 million (in a much smaller overall world population), with a mortality rate of 2.5%. (see http://bitworking.org/news/78)
    I was intrigued to read, however, that the main method of preventing malaria is sleeping under insecticide-treated nets. if only all diseases were that straightforward to deal with.

  10. SARS

    It’s been a few weeks since I last stood on my soapbox and got all preachy on you, so I’m

  11. Now do a graph for the number of innocent civilians killed by the US in their war of aggression in Iraq.
    And add a graph for the iraq civilians killed and tortured under saddam. Since we care, and, you know, to be fair.

  12. …yeah, and a graph of how many illegal detentions have been done by the US government, too!
    And on, and on. My point, such as she was, has been well missed by some. Sigh. Ah well.

  13. And Senn, I wouldn’t dare self-link in a front page post. Feel free to do it yourself, though, mate! 😉

  14. Well done Stavros. I just heard the other day that tyere is a big push on now to start using DDT in Africa as it is the only thing they have that will effectively combat malaris deaths. Apparantly where they have been using it the death/infection rate has plummeted (iirc – 80% reduction but don’t quote me on it)
    What pisses me off is the numbe of environmental groups who are up in arms against the use of DDT in Africa – listened to a long rant about it on CHC Radio the other day. Fair enough if you have a reasonable, affordable, accessible and equally effective alternative to put forth, but they don’t. I guess they would rather see those 3000 children dying every day or else they just don’t give a shit.

  15. Great set of images and, as usual, a load of other comparisons waiting to be done.
    One point of issue with Dynamic above. The big problem with DDT is not that it gets used, but how it gets used. Impregnated mozzie nets is one thing (anyone done any longitudinal studies on birth defects in the children of people who sleep in a DDT environment as children?) but random bulk spraying in the environment to kill the pupae and anything else downwind is NOT a good idea. Rachel Carson was not kidding.
    While we are getting squirrely about toxic environments, check this story from the Mercury news (Linked from the Agonist)

  16. On Epidemics

    When he’s not going ballistic about the administration audacious mendacity, stavrosthewonderchicken is putting together Tufte-esque diagrams to draw our attention to a disease that’s killing 3,000 children a day. An excellent visual display of informat…

  17. SARS cut down to size

    Yesterday in a cafe I overheard a group of apparently well-informed men somberly discussing how SARS is “worse than Aids”. The media hype must really be getting into top gear. For an excellent picture of how lethal SARS is in…

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