Monday, October 06, 2014

Death by Disease: Perception vs. Reality

Americans don't know much about infectious disease. A Harris poll asked the public for its best guess of the mortality rate of various infectious diseases once someone has the disease. Using sources such as the CDC and Wikipedia, Demo Memo compared perception to reality. Surprisingly, the public is pretty accurate at estimating the Ebola mortality rate. For other diseases, such as rabies, the gap between perception and reality is disturbing...

Best guess versus (actual) mortality rate
Ebola: 58% (50%)
Bubonic plague: 43% (11%)
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome/SARS: 28% (10%)
Smallpox: 25% (30%)
Rabies: 25% (100%)
West Nile Virus: 25% (5%)
Polio: 20% (5% to 10%)

Source: Harris Interactive, Shortly Before Texas Diagnosis, Four in Ten Americans Believed Ebola Represented a Threat to Public Health in the U.S.

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