There’s an apocryphal story in the international public health sphere about the time someone tried to figure out total mortality in Africa in any given year. Apparently they went through the newsletters/press releases of charities dedicated to various diseases, and found that if you added all the “x number of people die every year” numbers up, everyone in Africa died every year. Twice.
While there’s likely some data inflation there, the other explanation is that it’s really hard to classify causes of death (I’ve covered some of this before). Even with infectious disease, this can be tricky. If an HIV positive person contracts tuberculosis and dies, do they go under HIV mortality, or tuberculosis? If malnutrition leaves on susceptible to other infections, what’s the real cause of death? How about a bad water supply that carries ringworm?
What Is The Most Effective Killing Machine Man Has Ever Seen?Mosquitoes.
There has never been a more effective killing machine. Researchers estimate that mosquitoes have been responsible for half the deaths in human history.Malaria accounts for much of the mortality, but mosquitoes also transmit scores of other potentially fatal infections, including yellow fever, dengue fever, chikungyunga, lymphatic filariasis, Rift Valley fever, West Nile fever, and several types of encephalitis. Despite our technical sophistication, mosquitoes pose a greater risk to a larger number of people today than ever before. Like most other pathogens, the ciruses and parasites borne by mosquitoes evole rapidly to resist pesticides and drugs.
via “The Mosquito Solution,” ($$$) The New Yorker, July 9 & 16, 2012, p. 40
Definitely made me a bit nervous, especially since it seems malaria, etc would actually be some of the more accurately counted causes of death. So, um, take care of yourselves this summer, okay?