Which Contagious Diseases Are The Deadliest?

No one knows what the death toll in the Ebola epidemic will be. As of Tuesday, nearly 2,500 people have died and nearly 5,000 have caught the virus, the World Health Organization says.

So how does this epidemic compare with the toll taken by other contagious diseases?

Comparing fatality rates could help put the current Ebola outbreak in perspective. Trouble is, getting an accurate value for many diseases can be hard, especially in places where the health care infrastructure is weak.

Take the situation in West Africa right now. “We can only count those who come to the doctor, not those who stayed home and got well, or those who stayed home and died,” says Carol Sulis, an epidemiologist at Boston University School of Medicine and the Boston Medical Center.

Another issue is that “deadliest” can mean two things. It can refer to the fatality rate — the number of deaths per number of cases — or it can mean the number of deaths in total caused by a disease.

What’s more, diseases can take a different toll in different parts of the world. In low- and middle-income countries, only limited medical care may be available, if that. This will raise the fatality rate for many infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, malaria and infectious diarrhea.

"Similar to Ebola, people’s chances of survival increase for most of these [contagious] diseases, some dramatically, if people receive medical treatment," says epidemiologist Derek Cummings, at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Even if lists have their limitations, they can shed light. We spoke to Cummings and Sulis and consulted data from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to come up with two lists: the deadliest contagious diseases by death toll and by death rate if untreated.

See the lists here.

Photo: Do you know what the deadliest disease is? Hint: It’s not Ebola (viral particles seen here in a digitally colorized microscopic image, at top right, along with similar depictions of other contagious diseases) NPR Composite/CDC

white flag

We had to call it. Time to say uncle. Four days of antibiotics and alternating Tylenol and ibuprofen wasn’t cutting Fin’s fever. He needed fluids, rest, and extra help. We took him to the hospital yesterday in the morning.

I’m glad we did. He has pneumonia. Making the decision was hard, but it was also a relief. Stubbornly insisting we could do this ourselves wasn’t helping anyone. Right now, he’s riding the hospital vent and clearly feeling better, although he’s fine for a few minutes, then pissed off for a few more. Poor kid.

The hardest thing was getting the IV. That’s never a fun show. The next hardest was using the bathroom. This is the first trip to the hospital since he’s been potty trained, so he’s having some stress about that. And my friend brought us some serious burritos for lunch, so the bathroom down the hall got an unexpected workout.

Time to shower and get coffee. The girls want to see their brother. It’s no fun waking up in the house and knowing he’s not in his own bed.


I think I may have found out how Pepper dies.

According to her wiki page, http://americanhorrorstory.wikia.com/wiki/Pepper, it says that the cause of her death was unknown. In Continuum, Betty Drake goes to the new head of Briarcliff’s office. She tells Betty that Pepper dies in the winter of 1966 and shows her Pepper’s death certificate. I paused Netflix when she showed the certificate and it states that Pepper died of Pulminary Fibrosis, numerous doubly artificial fibers, and Pneumonia.

Pneumonia revealed in a cough

A new method, which analyzes the sounds in a child’s cough, could soon be used in poor, remote regions to diagnose childhood pneumonia reliably. According to Udantha Abeyratne from the University of Queensland in Australia and colleagues, this simple technique of recording coughs with a microphone on the patient’s bedside table, has the potential to revolutionize the management of childhood pneumonia in remote regions around the world. Their work¹ is published online in Springer’s journal Annals of Biomedical Engineering².

More at EurekAlert

TSK: Shot for teacher
  • Cranquis:Ok, after the nurse gives you the antibiotic injection and draws your blood, you'll need to go to the xray department, then come back here. If your chest xray shows pneumonia as I suspect, and the blood tests are abnormal, you might need to go to the hospital. Otherwise, you'll go home with antibiotics and cough medicine and you'll see your doctor in a day or two for a recheck.
  • 50-something female school teacher:Ok. *cough* That's a lot of instructions.
  • Cranquis:Well, it's always been a dream of mine to give a teacher some homework.
  • Patient:Har har. *cough* Don't make me laugh!