Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

October 8, 2014

The drawstrings on your jacket are more likely to kill you than Ebola

Filed under: Public Health & Medical Care — by Arnold Bogis on October 8, 2014

So says Chelsea Rice, a Boston.com staff writer in her provocatively titled piece, “104 Things More Likely to Kill you than Ebola:”

Ebola has made it to the U.S., and everyone is freaking out. They shouldn’t be—at least not until they’ve sufficiently freaked out about these 104 things that, according to nationwide data, are even more likely to kill them.

  • Walking to work
  • Stroke
  • Hunting accidents
  • COPD
  • Drawstrings on your jacket
  • Wrong-site surgery
  • Alligators

Yes.  Alligators.

This should not be taken as demeaning the suffering of any Ebola victims anywhere, and especially the horrific conditions faced by those living in nations hit especially hard in West Africa.

It is, however, a reminder that despite the constant drumbeat of fear coming from cable news and internet pundits that the threat to Americans remains astonishingly low. A couple of other favorites from that list:

  • Falling in the shower
  • Bunk bed accidents
  • Cheerleading
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Roller coasters
  • Bouncy houses
  • Trampolines

What has surprised me most about this entire situation is the lack of calls for increased public health spending.  There are cries for cutting off travel to afflicted nations, increased monitoring at our international airports, and even attempts to tie this situation with border security. However, I haven’t heard a peep about cuts to spending on public health.  A note to advocates out there: if not a teachable moment, it is definitely what they call a “hook” in making the case to spend more on public health. While it may seem unseemly, this is the time to push your argument.

One of the few exceptions, that unfortunately makes a weak case in my opinion, is from Frances Bevington of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.  While Ms. Bevington lays out a scholarly argument, it unfortunately won’t move any Congressional officials to increase grant funding, nor state or local decision makers to shift limited resources back to public health.  She concludes:

Will cuts in preparedness funding to local health departments make an Ebola outbreak in the United States more likely? The answer is no. The conditions that would limit the spread of Ebola, including better infection control in healthcare facilities and different cultural traditions, are not factors influenced by preparedness funding at local health departments. Despite funding cuts, the public health workforce stands ready to do whatever is necessary to stop Ebola from spreading. But those cuts have put deep dents in the public health shield that protects the lives of all Americans and make it more likely that local health departments faced with even a few cases of Ebola would significantly strain their already thinly stretched workforce and financial resources during the response.

Her point is correct.  And I’m not asking for people to stretch the facts to make a point. Nor hype the threat of Ebola.  But it might do some good to point out at least a little more strongly that the systems, infrastructure, and most importantly people protecting this nation from an outbreak of Ebola have recently experienced significant cuts in their funding.  There is probably no better time to make the argument for increased public health funding than when both CNN and Fox reference the public health system roughly at least once each hour.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Print
  • LinkedIn

7 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 8, 2014 @ 7:25 am

Arnold! We have no leaders only TOADS! Can you guess this acronym?

Try TOTALLY OBSTRUCT ANY DECISIONS!

You can do better!

Comment by Donald Quixote

October 9, 2014 @ 9:13 am

I agree with your perspective and comments. However, Ebola will likely kill more people in the United States than hurricanes this year. Do we change our priorities and planning?

Public health preparedness has surely fallen off of the radar until now and the next threat.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

October 9, 2014 @ 10:26 am

Donald Quixote: Rather than adjusting operational/tactical attention to hurricane or Ebola, I would urge more strategic/operational preparedness for infectious diseases AND extreme weather AND… I would especially encourage more serious (rigorous, specific, empirical) attention to risk assessments and early warning systems and anticipating the at-risk interdependencies that a whole range of threat-vectors tend to impact. I do find the homeland security field to still be very threat-oriented. I don’t think all of this could or should be avoided, but I do think even specific threat-oriented thinking would benefit from situating each threat in a more robust risk matrix. (Gad, robust, rigorous and even more wiggly words in the same paragraph, but I’ve got to catch a plane.)

Comment by Donald Quixote

October 9, 2014 @ 12:54 pm

Is that not the rub – especially since 2001? Everything is a priority? If we do not focus on the risk, threat, vulnerability et al., what do we focus on? The easy answer is what just happened because it is fresh in our memories.

As previously discussed, I continue to argue that a serious novel pandemic threat can easily dwarf a conventional terrorist attack for the impact. It is just harder to envision a pathogen as compared to an ISIL\ISIS\IS fighter. The terrorist threat is also fresher in our memories. With hard work and good fortune, the deaths from terror attacks within the United States will be less than Ebola here this year too. Then what is our priority?

Comment by Jim Curren

October 10, 2014 @ 12:40 pm

200 people drown in toilets in the US every year – another 400 in bathtubs. And dont get me started about autoerotic asphyxiation. I have a better chance of being killed by a deer/car accident then Ebola or terrorists. Much ado about nothing.

Comment by Donald Quixote

October 11, 2014 @ 3:24 pm

It is much ado about nothing until it is not (12-07, 9-11, Spanish Flu, AIDS, et al.)

If we could only focus the deer on ISIS\ISIL\IS and solve two problems and save billions of dollars……….

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>