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Region 5 Blog February 6th, 2023
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DataFlash: Telling the Real Coronavirus Story with Data

Posted by on February 18th, 2020 Posted in: Data Science, Emergency Preparedness, Health Literacy, Public Health, Training & Education
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The new coronavirus (i.e. COVID-19) has some people in the United States worried.  As of February 18th, 2020, there are more than 70,000 confirmed cases in China right now.  The outbreak is serious, but if you’re living in the United States, the odds are that the regular flu is a much more serious risk to your health than the coronavirus.  The CDC reported that in the 2017-2018 year, that there were over 60,000 influenza/flu associated deaths in the United States alone.  On February 18th, 2020 coronavirus fatalities peaked at 1,875 in Asia alone with one death outside of Asia so far.

Again, according to the CDC, the risk of coronavirus infection to the general public of the United States is considered “low at this time” as the general American public is unlikely exposed to this virus.  This risk of infection changes of course if let’s say you are an American healthcare worker caring for patients with COVID-19 or if you have recently traveled to China.  According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, care like washing your hands frequently as you can and staying away from crowded places where people are coughing and sneezing are more effective than wearing face masks.  According to Dr. Fauci the only people who need masks are those who are already infected to keep them from exposing others.

 A great data visualization/data dashboard on the coronavirus is one that was put out by Baltimore’s very own John Hopkins University.  Unlike some media outlets and social media, this data visualization tells a technically accurate data story of what’s going on with the coronavirus outbreak worldwide.  It takes a balanced and factual approach at looking at not only looking at the number of deaths (i.e. 1,875 as of 02/18/20), but the remarkable number of people who have recovered (i.e. 13,147 as of 02/18/20) from this viral infection.  The map on the dashboard accurately locates and quantifies the number of confirmed coronavirus cases with China having the most at 72,439 as of February 18th, 2020.  Finally, like all good data stories, the John Hopkins data visualization/story cites credible data sources like WHO, CDC, ECDC, NHC, and DXY in an attempt to be transparent and trustworthy.  All in all, this data visualization/story of the coronavirus makes a good attempt at a truthful depiction of the outbreak that is devoid of exaggeration and of most negative personal biases.

Data Citation:

John Hopkins University (2020). Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by John Hopkins CSSE.  https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

Image of the author ABOUT Nancy Shin
I received my Bachelor of Science in the Integrated Sciences majoring in medical genetics and animal biology from the University of British Columbia (UBC). I also graduated from UBC's esteemed MLIS program with a focus on health librarianship. In 2018, I was the Research Data Management Sewell Fund Fellow for the Technology Incubator at Washington State University. Currently, I'm the NNLM Region 5's Outreach and Data Coordinator for the University of Washington's Health Sciences Library. In my spare time, I enjoy photography, drawing, cooking and baking, and travelling the world!!!

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Developed resources reported in this program are supported by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012343 with the University of Washington.

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