Top 5 Things More Americans will die of than Ebola this Year, including Guns

By Juan Cole

The odd hysteria about ebola is being driven more by a media frenzy than the actual public health risks. Ebola is not the sort of disease that is likely to turn into a pandemic, becoming really wide spread. It is too hard to contract (it doesn’t spread by infected persons just breathing on others) and kills too many of its victims (diseases don’t survive well if neither do their hosts). Moreover, countries that are relatively well-governed, with good public health systems are not at high risk from this sort of disease. Even Senegal and Nigeria in West Africa have dealt with small outbreaks professionally and right now have no ebola cases, in contrast to countries ravaged by years of civil war like Sierra Leone and Liberia (wars, by the way, in which former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi played a major and cynical role).

You never know whether corporate media spread such panics to make money off the news (the definition of corporate media) or to take working peoples’ minds off more important issues, such as how American Neoliberal capitalism is increasingly screwing them over.

But here are some things that will kill more Americans this year than ebola.

1. Largely unregulated, often military-grade firearms in the hands of civilians will typically be deployed in 11,000 homicides and nearly 20,000 suicides every year in the US. Background checks at gun shows for all purchasers, including from private sellers there, would much reduce this toll, but this measure has been blocked by the gun manufacturers (a.k.a. the NRA). It would be fairly easy to address this enormous public health debacle, but bought-and-paid-for American politicians play down the issue, in contrast to the ebola hype, which they have tried to tie to immigrants and have used to promote Islamophobia.

2. Smoking will kill on the order of 430,000 Americans this year. The US government allows corporations to spray extra nicotine and other addictive substances on the tobacco leaves so as to addict youngsters who experiment with smoking and make it difficult for them to quit. Nearly half a million people killed a year should cause a panic, especially since most of us have a loved one or close friend who smokes, but there is no pressure at all on government to stop the corporate promotion of nicotine addiction for the express purpose of making money off killing working people.

3. The public seems to want government to make the investments necessary to dealing with infectious diseases such as ebola. But too many Americans mind Obamacare, which has added millions to the rolls of the insured. Back in 2009, it was estimated, some 45,000 people died every year just from not having access to health care. Now that number will decrease significantly.

4. Burning coal to produce electricity directly kills some 12,000 people a year, in addition to helping cause 200,000 heart attacks annually. Coal’s release of mercury into the atmosphere also causes fatalities and disabilities, since mercury is a nerve poison. And of course, burning coal causes rapid and disruptive climate change, which will kill far more people than ebola ever will.

5. An analysis of the food combinations available on the menus of 34 restaurant chains that offer children’s meals showed that 50 percent of the meal combos came to over 600 calories, while 430 calories is a more ideal meal for children. These restaurants are clearly contributing to the obesity crisis in children and youth. Being obese in childhood is highly correlated with being obese in adulthood. Some 300,000 Americans die every year from conditions associated with obesity. As for children, the CDC reports,

“Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.1, 2
The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.1, 2
In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

Just demanding that American restaurants offer less toxic meals to children would save many more lives than will ever be taken by ebola in the US. But it would mean standing up to the food corporations.

Whether it is the lobbyists for Big Coal who want to go on spewing poison into the atmosphere, or the NRA lobbyists for the four major corporations that manufacture hand guns or the restaurant lobbyists who want to evade regulation and want to be able to kill their customers with 4,000-calorie meals, or the cigarette manufacturers and distributors who are, like 007, licensed by the government to murder, the common denominator here is that our corporations are often much worse for our health than a mere infectious disease outbreak. But these health deficits are almost never reported on in the media owned by the corporations. Instead, we’re encouraged to think about something else while our pockets are being picked– say, an exotic disease.


Related video:

The Big Picture RT:The Big Threat of Coal Ash to Your Health?

8 Responses

  1. Get it over Juan, the fact is the ALL corporate media’s “news” is second-state’s propaganda.

    • The news in the US is just one step above state sponsored media because it limits access to critical information and tends to play on their fears.

      The CNN network ( or should I call it the charlatan news network) repeats the same stories ad nausea. During the search for Malaysian flight 1370 the coverage was so dominant that I really thought that Anderson Cooper should rename his show to Anderson Cooper 370.

      Gun control is a bit puzzling for me because the US is really not that dangerous, I lived in Panama for 20 years and it had a murder rate 5 times the US. Nevertheless, there was only time I even considered buying a gun, after the US invaded and there was no Panamanian police force, but I decided against it. It would probably be better for people to seek therapy for their irrational fears rather than purchasing that extra gun for Christmas.

  2. The things the US capitalist, corporate media recently used to scare the living shit out of US residents off the top of my head are al-Qaeda, ISIS and ebola.

    The greatest threat to the lives of the working class is, in fact, work itself! According to the BLS, “A preliminary total of 4,405 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2013, lower than the revised count of 4,628 fatal work injuries in 2012, according to results from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

    The death toll from global warming is going to be much worse than any of these “threats” hyped by the capitalist, corporate media and yet no consensus can be formed to address that crisis. Why not?

  3. The war on Ebola is very serious and should be taken in a serious way. Even though there have only been three cases of the disease in America, it is better to be cautious. I do agree that news organization are blowing it out of proportion in order to boost their ratings and get more viewers to watch their shows. This practice is not helping because it creates fear instead of educating the population. This disease does have the possibility to get out of control and spread all over the world. The US government seems to be taking the necessary steps to control it by screening at airports and watching cases at the hospitals. They don’t want to let this get out of control. Every time there is a new disease that is spreading people go crazy, maybe because of the media. Look at what happened when AIDS first came out, then there was the bird flu, and mer’s. Eventually the scientist come up with a way to cure or control these diseases. Hopefully this one doesn’t go to far and there will be a cure for those infected.

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