how many people have you known who died young of an infectious disease?
if you knew a lot of gay men in the 1980’s, you probably went through this with AIDS. but i’d be hard pressed to name another epidemic in our lifetimes, in the U.S., that was both easily transmissible and deadly. yes, some people die of things like virulent strains of the flu– but by and large, these are people who are already sick. in the U.S., we are very privileged.
heart disease kills the largest number of Americans (almost 600,000 per year), followed by cancer (see the CDC’s stats for more info). to get to an infectious disease, you have to go way down the list to number 8: influenza and pneumonia combined kill just 54,000, and most of these people are elderly, immunocompromised, or suffering from chronic respiratory ailments. in the current ebola outbreak in west africa, 3439 patients have died so far (high-quality ebola info here).
i don’t say this to downplay the epidemic and the toll on west africa, but rather to remind us that we have a lot of gifts in this country: an excellent public health system, sanitation, funded research, and infrastructure, yes. but also the luxury that the threats to our health are largely preventable. do you want to squander your blessedly ebola-free existence on domino’s and real housewives, setting yourself up to be killed by the most common cause of death? or do you want to grab that bull by the horns, eat real food, and move a lot? guess which camp i fall into?