Just walking into Founders, it was obvious that this wasn't going to be your typical Forum presentation. First there was a definite buzz as students gathered around the speaker, then there were the brightly-colored, numbered “building blocks” and contestant chairs.
It all seemed a bit odd, after all the topic was the somber “Ebola and Fear: A Public Health Perspective.”
Bluffton’s own assistant professor of public health, Dr. Ross Kauffman, whose specialty is epidemiology (or the study of how diseases spread) was the guest speaker.
Ebola is scary stuff. During the current outbreak – 20,206 people have been effected world-wide with 7,905 dying from the virus (as of 1/31/2014). We were told that it could not be spread by casual contact, meanwhile health workers were donning full hazmat suits. And the media – both mainline and social – ate it up. For several weeks/months one could not watch the news or check in on social media without stoking the fear of this strange new sickness (which actually was first identified in 1974.)
What if I told you that more people died last year from diseases/choices that are totally preventable than have died from Ebola? That was the message as Dr. Kauffman the professor, became Ross, the host of “The Risk is Right” game show. Students competed for movie passes, gift certificate, etc., while answering questions about public health issues.
What was soon apparent was that many diseases/ways to die that we take lightly, actually cause more deaths than the one we were freaking out about. For instance, 435,000 deaths per year in the U.S. can be attributed to tobacco use. (In case you are wondering – that is 55 times more funerals in the U.S. alone than can be traced to Ebola world-wide.)
Here is your chance to play along.
- In the decade of 2001-10, rank the following in order of least deaths to most deaths in the U.S.: Heart disease, Terrorism, Car accidents.
- In the 20th century which caused more deaths, all wars and armed conflicts or smallpox?
- Terrorism (3,032), Car accidents (402,703), Heart disease (6,448,388)
- Smallpox killed three times as many people as all military conflict in the 20th century (including WWI and WWII.) And smallpox was eradicated in the 1970s thanks to vaccinations.