Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Although many people (including me) think or used to think that this was said by either Mark Twain or Benjamin Disraeli, it appears that Sir Charles Dilke, 2nd Baronet copied this from an anonymous writer. Not to dwell too much on history, let’s dwell on the present. 

Pandemic, or pandemonium (depends on your point of view) is with us. I had to shut down social media for a while, as at one point, the hardwood floor guy (no joke) was trying to school me in the field of epidemiology. Notwithstanding on what is really going on with the virus, etc., there is one point I want to raise. 

We have heard frantic media chants how the USA has the most victims, the most deaths, and so on. The macabre website – https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ – lists the cases and the deaths per country and has USA in the first place. We are, however, still number 12 in the number of cases per million and the death rate is 270 per million – compare that with 780 per million in Belgium and 591 per million in Spain. Keep in mind that in USA the people who die with The Virus are classified to die from The Virus (making as much sense as classifying someone with stomach ulcer who died of flu as dying from a stomach ulcer). 

The second point, there is news about how, although the total number of cases per day is going down in the USA, there are mini spikes. The fallacy of looking at the USA curve and comparing it with individual countries in Europe is mind-boggling. In fact, making such a comparison is wrong on many levels. First, the USA is more than half of the continent. It has 50  states. The more accurate comparison would be comparing USA with EU, but those charts are just not there. The USA has so far 90,000 deaths (with the current way of counting deaths). Spain, Italy, and France alone had that many deaths (when put together) counting them differently. And not everybody in EU gets the test when they want it. 

Although I am not epidemiologist, it is pretty clear that we are not doing any worse than most of the countries, and in fact, better than most. Now, this is not going to be a condolence to anyone who has lost a loved one, but it seems that we are doing fine with the terrible situation we were, and are, presented with. The curve has been flattened and now we have to wait it out – but please use your head and intellect when looking at the data. 

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Drazen Jukic MD, PhD

Dr. Drazen Jukic is a board-certified dermatopathologist. He was born and raised in Zagreb, Croatia, where he finished medical school. He completed the pathology residency at SUNY Brooklyn and several fellowships at Memorial Sloan Kettering and at UPMC. He was a director of dermatopathology and dermatopathology fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh until 2010. After that, he worked for 4 years for James A. Haley VA Hospital. In 2014, he joined Georgia Dermatopathology where he serves as a laboratory director. He is a visiting associate professor at the University of Florida (dermatopathology teaching) and at Mercer University (first-year medical students at Mercer). He has an active telepathology consultation service. 

  2 comments for “Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

  1. May 24, 2020 at 9:11 pm

    If you leave out downstate NY, U.S. looks about the best in the world
    By itself downstate NY is about the worst

  2. Rusty Shackleford
    May 19, 2020 at 2:30 am

    Oh, haven’t you heard? We have to keep hiding under our desks until a cure for viruses and lightning is discovered. Anyone arguing otherwise wants my grandmother to die.

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