Relative Risk

An acquaintance of mine is, shall we say, risk averse. His current concern is West Nile virus. He has been regaling me with counts of how many of the mosquitoes caught in his neighborhood are of the West Nile carrying variety, and how many dead and sick birds he’s found. Today he asked me how many people on my street had West Nile.

I think it’s time for another review of relative risk. The state of Colorado has a population of 4,436,725 (source: Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Demography Section). As of today, the number of cases in the state was 262 (source: Centers for Disease Control). That’s one out of every 16,934 people. Six of these people have died.

In contrast, in 2001 in Colorado there were:
9,126 deaths from cardiovascular disease
1,484 deaths from lung cancer
468 deaths from breast cancer
746 deaths from motor vehicle accidents
717 deaths from homicide
(source: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment: 2001 Vital Statistics Data)

For some reason I can’t get too worked up about West Nile virus.


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