Random Analytics: Ebola in the USA? Time for some context

by Shane Granger

Back at the end of September when the Thomas Eric Duncan Ebola case was first diagnosed in Texas and hit the headlines Ebola went from being an African issue to become an American problem. Social media exploded on the subject, Twitter mentions on Ebola tripled overnight and news agencies across the Western world struggled to keep up with the renewed interest.

Most of the analysis has been very good but some of the commentary has been downright crazy.

CNN did a story on how some US Republicans are calling for stronger border controls by linking Ebola with ISIS. As crazy as the idea of mixing the Ebola and ISIS narrative is CNN itself asked the same question prompting The Independent to write ‘The Isis of biological agents?’: CNN is asking the stupid Ebola questions.

1 - CNN_Ebola~ISIS

Stupid is as stupid does is not just reserved for the United States. In my own country of Australia a recently returned nurse was hospitalised on fears she may have contracted the disease after registering a mild fever. This incident had Bob Katter, the federal member for Capricornia suggesting a ban on people travelling to Australia from West Africa and calling for all returning Health Care Workers to be put into government isolation upon their return (the nurse in question was actually in self-imposed home isolation).

Anyway, I thought the debate on the one case in the United States against the 8,398 in Western Africa (as per the most recent WHO update) was worth putting in context. An infographic:

2 - EbolaCasesbyFlagSize_8Oct2014

The West African Ebola Outbreak – Cases by Country is a look at the six countries impacted by the disease with data to 7/8 October 2014. Each individual country is represented by their flag and the size of their flag is a percentile proportion of total cases.

As you can see Liberia has 48.5% of all cases, followed by Sierra Leone (35.1%), Guinea (16.1%) and Nigeria (0.2%). Both the USA and Spain have one case each which equates to 0.000119% of all cases and too small to be represented by a flag.

The story of Thomas Eric Duncan is tragic and the entry of a disease like Ebola into the West is scary but we need to get some context on how bad the situation is.


To the Lost


Data Sources

[1] Hooten, C. ‘The Isis of biological agents?’: CNN is asking the stupid Ebola questions. The Independent. 7 October 2014. Accessed 12 October 2014.
[2] World Health Organisation. WHO: Ebola Response Roadmap Situation Report 10 October 2014. Accessed 12 October 2014.