With the Ebola virus having now infected fully .0000006 percent of the American population, it's obviously time to panic, because you're probably going to die from it. But while you're panicking over Ebola, are there other things you should be fearing simultaneously, to really take your terror into the stratosphere? Why yes there are. And I've decided to make a chart, so you'll know just what to be afraid of.
These data are drawn from statistics put out by the Centers for Disease Control; 2011 is the most recent year for which the numbers are available. From the 113 different causes of death they list, I've chosen a few, then added one extra one down at the bottom:
There are things that don't appear in this particular set of data; for instance, medical errors kill as many as 440,000 Americans every year. And some of those diseases are the result of other factors; for instance, the CDC says that smoking is responsible for 480,000 deaths in America each year. But you get the idea.
Of course, it's possible that Ebola could kill large numbers of Americans. But the chances of a genuine outbreak happening here are infinitesimally small. The fact that two nurses in Dallas got the disease is horrible, but they didn't share a bus with someone who had been exposed or walk by a sick person on the street. They were treating a man dying of Ebola, and were unfortunately with him while his infected bodily fluids were pouring out of his body. That is not a situation you will find yourself in.
Every couple of days, a new poll comes out showing levels of fear about Ebola rising. Most recently, a Washington Post poll from the other day showed that 65 percent of people said they were very or somewhat worried that there will be a "widespread Ebola epidemic" in the United States. And credit goes to Fox News for asking people whether ISIS or Ebola is more likely to harm Americans (why they didn't also throw in White Walkers and unicorn impalements, I'm not sure).
I understand why deadly viruses are particularly frightening. You can't see them, and they wait inside your body until they emerge to assault you. They make us feel powerless. The media is doing everything it can to terrify us. And we've all seen movies like "Outbreak" or "Contagion," so we already have a vision of global pandemics we can draw on to fuel our fears.
But if you really want to feel afraid of the things that might actually kill you, there are plenty of other places to focus your attention.