Remember ebola? Media-inflamed health scares, quantified


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Remember Ebola? Health scare? Seriously? It was a two year outbreak that killed over 11,000 people, displaced hundreds of thousands. It destroyed families, lives, economies…

Bit of perspective, please, Andrea. Not all health “scares” are equal.


I’m usually pretty good at reading charts and infographics but I’m not even sure what I’m looking at here.


Ebola was very serious. The only reason it was contained to the above stats is that t g e world collectively freaked out. Who screened this?

I’ll add that I am an emergency room nurse and involved on global health studies and ebola scared the shit out of me. Easily spread, no vacinnes, no treatments, high mortality. Yikes.


Yeah. This reads a bit like “remember the time a bunch of Africans we don’t care about died?” I don’t think it was intentional but boy is it a bad look.


Remember that time when there was a health crisis and media attention spurred the world into action and the problem was contained? Well we all didn’t die so everybody is stupid and nobody understands statistics.


We had an Ebola death in my part of the country. It happened just a few miles from where I live. I shudder to think what might have happened if the media-inflamed scare didn’t take place and our emergency responders and clinicians hadn’t been made aware of the incoming problem.


this post is peak BoingBoing. Just add an Amazon referer link to something.


Why is there no scale? How many news mentions? How many deaths? Useless charts. At least useless for the reader, possibly useful for the creator/publisher.


I know! The lack of a scale drives me nuts.


Linear or log scale?

It should also be categorized by number of casualties and economic damage. Otherwise, you could do something really silly like compare Ebola and violent video games.


I’ve got friends in West Africa. I also got acquaintances working at the Robert Koch institute. And I used to do statistics professionally, including the graphics.

I am annoyed on many levels by this post. =/


Media coverage of ebola was disproportionate to the threat. That does not mean ebola was unimportant or not scary, it means that it captured the imaginations of journalists and the public in disproportionate levels to the actual threat, especially outside the affected area. The 2009 swine flu global pandemic killed more people in the US alone, but malaria and flu are not as dramatic as people in hazmat suits.

“From 12 April 2009 to 10 April 2010, we estimate that approximately 60.8 million cases (range: 43.3-89.3 million), 274,304 hospitalizations (195,086-402,719), and 12,469 deaths (8868-18,306) occurred in the United States due to pH1N1.”

Ebola is certainly not trivial, but compared to the actual threat it posed in the US, it was covered vastly out of proportion to its actual lethal threat. The reasons for that are varied and interesting, but it mainly has to do with how dramatic hazmat suits look on TV compared to some poor American with swine flu getting an IV drip.

It’s great there was a lot of coverage which helped manifest a decisive response, but much of the US media coverage seemed more about reinforcing biases about that region (and late-night TV jokes) than about saving affected people.


Unfortunately this chart does nothing to quantify that. It just says “Mountains out of Molehills” and provides no numbers or context to back it up. The title alone implies that none of it was such a big deal (even swine flu which appears to be disproportionately under reported). It’s just not a good chart.


During he same time about 900,000 people died of malaria worldwide, and roughly the same amount of people that died of Ebola worldwide died of the flu in the US in the same period.

The Ebola outbreak mostly served to drum up fear of immigrants bringing airborn Ebola into the west, and the extra coverage did not cause a miracle that cut the epidemic short - it didn’t even cause a spike in donations to aide organizations.


Thank you! This echoes my earlier comment on the negative responses here. The chart is about media coverage compared to actual deaths. While I agree that the chart could use better labeling, sourcing, and definition of terms, the general point that ebola was covered disproportionately says a lot about media bias in the West.


Or it says a lot about how visceral Ebola is. Ebola is one of those diseases where you can physically see how terrible it is.


This is why I wouldn’t immediately jump to political motivation. American news outlets need advertising and a way to keep attention on it. Something nebulous, invisible, deadly, exotic, encroaching, with regular updates of it’s motion from reputable sources, that needs to be fought at all costs and a too horrific for TV image is a perfect storm for them. And that’s without anyone needing to get political or start a fight.

Sadly, the politics follow the paranoia and I’m betting that’s causal.


I mean, Fox News makes this easy.


Which weighs more, a pound of dead flies or a pound of Bill O’Reilly’s brain?