TIME ebola

How Ebola Hysteria Could Help Contain Flu Season

Since Ebola’s first symptoms resemble that of the flu, fears about Ebola could drive an influx of patients to doctors and emergency rooms with flu symptoms, who might otherwise have stayed home, doctors say. Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 5% to 20% of Americans get the flu, though most don’t see their doctor. In 2011, the last year for which data is available, 1,532 Americans died from influenza.

That number gives a sense of which disease is more dangerous to the greatest number of Americans. While only three people have been diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, nearly 40 percent of Americans say they are concerned that someone in their family will get the deadly virus within a year, a Harvard Public Health poll found last week.

While the media and polls depict an American public that is acutely fearful about Ebola, there is only modest evidence of a widespread change in behavior thus far. That could change as flu season kicks off, especially if new cases of Ebola arise in the United States. “We might expect to see an increase in people seeking health care for influenza like illness this season,” said Dr. Richard Webby, the director of a World Health Organization center studying influenza. But Webby described the flu as “background noise,” for its potential interference in efforts to contain Ebola.

For those who do see a doctor, the CDC tracks the percentage of visits in which the patients report flu-like symptoms, regardless of whether he or she actually has the flu. This figure is the best to follow to determine how fears over Ebola are influencing Americans’ response to the flu. Since March of this year, the percentage of flu related visits has been higher than the same period in 2013. This uptick approximately correlates with the rise of Ebola new coverage.

Percentage of Outpatient Visits Reporting Flu Symptoms

There is a historical precedent for fears of a pandemic raising concerns among those with the regular flu. CDC epidemiologist Lynnette Brammer, who developed the surveillance program for tracking flu cases, recounts a more dramatic trend in 2009. “During the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, we did see an increase of people going to the doctor with flu-like symptoms,” she said. “Normally they would have stayed at home, but because they were worried about H1N1, they got tested.”

Over 200 labs submit specimens tested for flu to CDC’s flu surveillance network. The number of specimens tested each week, graphed below, rises along with the increase in patients with flu symptoms. Fear over Ebola may explain this rise, though the most recent uptick in October marks the beginning of a new flu season, in which CDC added 120 new laboratories.

Number of Specimens Tested for Flu

Of course, the severity of the flu varies from year to year, which could also account for any change. Of the specimens tested above, the 2014 strain of the flu outpaced the 2013 version through May, but now appears indistinguishable.

Percent of Specimens Tested Positive for Flu

With additional reporting by Pratheek Rebala.

Methodology

Data from the Centers for Disease Control weekly influenza reports.

TIME

Romney in 2016? What History Tells Us About a Third Presidential Campaign

Nine other major candidates have lost the general election and then run again

Despite Ann Romney’s protestations that her family is “done, done, done” with presidential politics, those around the two-time presidential candidate are apparently jonesing for a third campaign. “There is a feeling that the country missed out on an exceptional president,” former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty recently told the Washington Post. “If he runs, I believe he could win the nomination and the general election. It’d be the right person at the right time, and I would encourage him to do it.”

So what are the chances Romney could move into the White House? It helps to profile Romney’s trajectory against presidents with similar political paths. Romney would be the tenth candidate to enter the race after losing his first general election, not counting quadrennial candidates who never received a single electoral vote. The graphs below show how the previous nine fared.

A 2016 campaign would be Romney’s third time at bat, after losing the Republican nomination for president in 2008, then winning his party’s nomination in 2012 but losing to President Barack Obama in the general election.

Of the nine candidates who have tread this path before, four went on to win a subsequent general election. That includes Grover Cleveland, the only person to have won, lost and then won a general election again.

The remaining five candidates who ran again after losing a general election never saw the White House.

Many more candidates lost their first attempt at the nomination and then eventually went on to win the general election in a subsequent cycle. President Ronald Reagan didn’t win the nomination until his third attempt, and then won the presidency twice.

Methodology

Data compiled from the CQ Voting and Elections Collection.

TIME

See How Ebola’s Spread Compares to Other Deadly Outbreaks

These three charts compare Ebola to other disease outbreaks

When the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) compared Ebola to AIDS last week, he introduced a new note of urgency to the outbreak. As was the case in the early days of HIV, there are currently no approved drugs to treat Ebola, and the virus carries the potential to cause untold devastation—not to mention a lot of panic.

But as an epidemic, Ebola has far more in common with other diseases. Here’s a comparison of Ebola’s impact over the past 19 weeks to other recent outbreaks that, like Ebola, have no known cure or vaccine.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

MERS is a viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. The World Health Organization has since reported 853 MERS infections, of which at least 301 were fatal, as of Sept. 30, 2014. Close contact seems to spread MERS, but it’s unclear exactly how the infection travels.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

The 2003 SARS outbreak in Hong Kong lasted nine weeks before flatlining, but spread far faster than Ebola. SARS is transmitted more easily from person to person, often from an infected person’s coughs and sneezes. The Ebola virus is not considered airborne because larger droplets of bodily fluids are required for transmission. Over 8,000 cases were reported, with a 10 percent fatality rate. SARS was effectively contained after two months.

Marburg Virus

The Marburg virus, named after the city in Germany where it was discovered, belongs to the same family of viruses as Ebola, which cause severe internal bleeding. And like Ebola, human-to-human transmission occurs through close contact with blood or other bodily fluids, often infecting family members and health care workers. The most recent widespread outbreak of Marburg, in Angola in 2005, lasted 26 weeks and caused 374 infections and 329 deaths.

HIV, by contrast, spreads far slower. There is not comparable data for the first weeks of the HIV pandemic.

For outbreaks with no known cure, response teams seek to halt transmission through patient isolation and careful tracing of an infected person’s contact with others. With over 8,000 infected, containment of Ebola poses a greater challenge than similar outbreaks in recent history.

Methodology

Data compiled from periodic World Health Organization updates for Ebola, Marburg, SARS and MERS.

TIME

Are You Making as Much Money as Your Friends?

Use this calculator to find out

The latest Census data on American incomes drove home a troubling fact: people aren’t making as much as they once did. The median household income in the United States in 2013 was $51,939, down 8 percent from 2007 when adjusted for inflation. Though the recession technically ended several years ago, large numbers of people continue to suffer from flat wages and rising prices.

But while the middle class continues to suffer, many slices of the population are doing better. Using individual-level Census data for 2008 to 2012—15 million records in total—TIME crunched the numbers for every demographic by gender, age, education and marital status.

The following calculator will tell you how your salary stacks up and how that’s changed over time. (The information you enter is not recorded. In fact, it never leaves your computer.)

These charts show individual personal income—money respondents received from any source—and only include people who worked full-time in a given year. (While unemployment was a tremendous scourge during the recession and its aftermath, including it here would confound an analysis of how income has changed.)

Since 2008, incomes have increased by 5.1 percent among all surveyed, while inflation rate over that time was 6.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic figures. (In other words, if your income increased by less than 6.6 percent, you lost purchasing power over that period.) But not all groups are falling behind. Married women between ages 41-50 with professional degrees saw a 16.6 percent growth in income over the past five years, the largest gain of any subset of the population for which there were at least 1000 respondents in the data. At the opposite end of the spectrum, men between 22 and 25 with some college education but no degree saw their income fall by 16.7 percent.

Gender

Women are recovering from the recession slightly faster than men, though men make considerably more overall.

2008 2012 Change
Women $31,000 $32,500 4.8%
Men $43,000 $46,000 4.7%

Age

Americans in their 20s saw the highest cut to their salaries since 2008.

2008 2012 Change
18-21 $12,200 $12,000 -1.6%
22-25 $23,000 $21,000 -8.7%
26-30 $32,000 $32,000 0%
30-35 $38,000 $39,500 3.9%
36-40 $41,000 $42,100 2.7%
41-50 $43,000 $45,000 4.7%
51-64 $45,000 $46,000 2.2%
65+ $41,400 $46,000 11.1%

Education

Those with less education have recovered the slowest, if at all.

2008 2012 Change
Less than high school $23,000 $22,300 -3%
High school or equivalent $30,000 $30,000 0%
Some college, no degree $33,200 $33,000 -0.6%
Associates $40,000 $40,000 0%
Bachelors $50,000 $53,000 6%
Masters $65,000 $69,000 6.2%
Professional degree $100,000 $102,100 2.1%
Doctorate $88,000 $90,000 2.3%

Marital Status

Single Americans are generally younger than other demographics shown here. This is consistent with median income changes by age.

2008 2012 Change
Single (never Married) $26,400 $26,200 -0.8%
Married $43,000 $45,000 4.7%
Separated or Divorced $37,000 $38,300 3.5%
Widowed $34,000 $36,400 7.1%

Methodology

The inputs for the calculator are determined by Census categories for gender, age, educational attainment, and marital status. The data was extracted from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series project (full citation below). IPUMS aggregates individual-level responses from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, an annual sampling of 1 percent of the population. The complete codebook for the extract, which can be used to recreate the complete dataset, is available here.

The analysis is limited to those who were at least 18 years old and coded as a “5” or a “6” in the WKSWORK2 column, meaning they worked at least 48 weeks of the previous 12 months. To allow for a sufficient sample size, individual years of age were bucketed into the ranges displayed in the interactive. Some similar educational levels and marital statuses were also combined.

Once the data was bucketed and grouped by unique combinations of demographic traits—married women from 51-64 with an associate’s degree, for example—we took the median of all of their incomes. This involved first accounting for the fact that not every person has equal weight in the sample. IPUMS provides a PERWT variable. After adding each person to the pool a number of times equal to his or her statistical weight, we took the median of the pooled values. In almost all cases, this “weighted median” was very similar to a naïve median calculated by considering each respondent to have equal weight.

Figures were then spot checked by replicating this process from the raw data in two different computational platforms, R and Mathematica. Any subpopulation with fewer than 50 respondents is not included.

Citation

Miriam King, Steven Ruggles, J. Trent Alexander, Sarah Flood, Katie Genadek, Matthew B. Schroeder, Brandon Trampe, and Rebecca Vick. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, Current Population Survey: Version 3.0. [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2010.

TIME

Watch Europe’s Borders Change Over 114 Years

As Scotland votes for independence, a look at the shifting lines that have divided the region's countries since 1900

 

Voting is now underway in Scotland to determine whether to cut ties with the United Kingdom. Should Scots vote to do so, they would become the last country to bedevil cartographers as the national boundaries in Europe continue to shift at a regular pace. The above map displays Europe’s border changes from the past 114 years, stretching back into the Ottoman Empire.

Methodology

The years in the timeline were chosen to reflect each major shift in borders after wars or other geopolitical events. Maps prior to 1946 were provided by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, maps after 1946 provided by The Geography of the International System: The CShapes Dataset.

 

TIME Infectious Disease

Watch How Ebola Has Spread Across The World

 

As of October 1, the World Health Organization has reported 7,249 infections of Ebola across six countries, resulting in 3,380 deaths.

This map shows the path of the disease’s outbreak, as recorded by the World Health Organization beginning March 23, 2014. Data from this week shows the disease spreading to the United States, through Eric Duncan who returned from Liberia on September 20.

With reporting from Becca Staneck.

 

This article was originally published on August 8.

TIME

See the Effects of Climate Change in 3 Birds

Most North American birds head further north for winter as climate warms

Looking for signs of climate change? You can check the temperatures of the oceans or the density of polar ice caps. Or you can see which birds are gathering outside your window.

A Birds & Climate Change report released this week by the Audubon Society predicts that global warming will severely threaten nearly half of U.S. birds by the year 2100. And birds are already on the move, according to the society’s research. By mapping the historical data used in Audubon’s climate study, we see can that birds have migrated further north by an average of 40 miles in the past 48 years as temperatures increase. The map above highlights three species whose center of abundance has moved by over 200 miles.

The winter migration data is the fruit of the longest citizen science project in existence, called the Christmas Bird Count. Thousands of volunteers across North America head out every winter to track bird locations in over 2,300 designated areas. Audubon scientists aggregate data along conservation regions and state lines and then they account for the varying effort of bird watchers (watch out slackers) to produce an “abundance index” for each species.

The maps reflect this index for three birds that highlight how warmer winters are influencing species differently. Sixty one percent of the 305 Christmas Bird Count species are moving north — some by more than 200 miles, like the Pine Siskin and American Black Duck. Fewer species are going south, as their winter ranges are shrinking on the whole, with the remaining suitable climates now left further south. This pattern is observed in the Peregrine Falcon, though its increased abundance is also due to pesticide bans.

The “all birds” map shows the abundance index of all observed species relative to other areas. Light green areas show where fewer than the average number birds was observed, while darker areas exceed the average. Over time, areas further north illustrate increasing abundance relative to other areas.

Methodology

Data was provided by the Aududon Society, with calculations by Candan Soykan, an ecologist for Audubon. The “abundance index” for the three species shown on the map is based on the number of birds observed, by species, for each survey in the Christmas Bird Count, adjusted for variation in bird watching effort, among other factors.

The relative abundance for the map of bird density standardizes each species’ abundance index to a common scale before combining across species to provide an overall estimate. Standardization prevents abundant or more detectable species from dominating patterns in the map. To accommodate some species dramatically changing in abundance over the 48-year interval, median values are used. These median values for each year are averaged by decade (except in the case of 1966 to 1973) to be used on the time slider and map.

Photos: Getty Images (2);mdc

TIME

50 Smartest Celebrities on Twitter

Jimmy Kimmel, Samuel L. Jackson and Justin Bieber's mom are among the sharpest celebrities online, according to an analysis of their tweets.

When it comes to big brains and big followings online, Leonardo DiCaprio appears to best them all: the Wolf of Wall Street actor is the smartest celebrity on Twitter. DiCaprio scores higher than the rest when judged by a commonly used reading comprehension test. Here’s where the tweeting and famous rank, according to analysis of the reading levels of the tweets produced by the 500 most followed celebrities on the popular social network. Or test the reading level of any Twitter username.

RANKING NAME GRADE LEVEL
1
Followers
10,537,477
7.5
2
Followers
3,240,488
7.3
3
Followers
4,105,738
7
4
Followers
9,495,505
6.8
Followers
3,394,539
6.8
Followers
3,876,935
6.8
7
Followers
9,624,350
6.6
Followers
3,618,047
6.6
9
Followers
3,512,750
6.5
Followers
6,547,046
6.5
Followers
3,465,262
6.5
Followers
6,957,631
6.5
Followers
4,313,917
6.5
Followers
4,348,803
6.5
15
Followers
9,330,945
6.4
Followers
5,679,824
6.4
Followers
12,790,629
6.4
Followers
3,916,429
6.4
Followers
5,430,990
6.4
Followers
4,439,241
6.4
21
Followers
7,024,230
6.3
Followers
8,330,339
6.3
Followers
6,679,206
6.3
Followers
3,609,118
6.3
25
Followers
5,224,026
6.2
Followers
3,777,176
6.2
Followers
3,453,774
6.2
Followers
6,667,346
6.2
Followers
3,717,750
6.2
Followers
10,384,608
6.2
Followers
4,243,642
6.2
Followers
3,430,272
6.2
33
Followers
18,374,747
6.1
Followers
4,962,687
6.1
Followers
3,356,790
6.1
Followers
17,130,614
6.1
Followers
3,862,527
6.1
Followers
5,043,670
6.1
Followers
12,014,650
6.1
Followers
3,088,771
6.1
Followers
17,130,615
6.1
42
Followers
24,784,725
6
Followers
28,273,688
6
Followers
3,730,469
6
Followers
3,315,673
6
Followers
3,492,788
6
Followers
4,148,210
6
Followers
13,448,230
6
49
Followers
9,688,482
5.9
Followers
4,157,413
5.9

 

Methodology
The ranking above is based on a reading comprehension test known as Simple Measure of Gobbledygook (SMOG). The SMOG test measures the number of three syllable words used in a text to calculate the years of education required to understand it. An environmental activist, DiCaprio often tweets about “conservation” and global warming which may have helped him earn the top spot.

In a recent analysis of more than 1 million tweets, we found that messages on Twitter average a fourth-grade reading level. All of the celebrities above exceed that grade. To find Twitter’s smartest celebrities, we analyzed the last 20 tweets from the 500 highest followed celebrities (stripped of URLs and hashtags), then ran the results through the SMOG test to calculate reading level. SMOG is intended for processing English, so users tweeting in multiple languages were removed. Computer processing of natural language has its limitations. For example, the SMOG test can falsely read slang as multi-syllable words.

You can test your own Twitter grade level or anyone else’s here.

TIME

How Smart Are Your Tweets?

Thirty-three percent of tweets test at a fourth grade reading level. Use the tool to see how yours compare.

Justin Bieber may have celebrated his 20th birthday this spring but on Twitter, he isn’t smarter than a fifth grader. The rebellious Canadian pop star shouldn’t be embarrassed: Lady Gaga is also tweeting at fifth grade level, while President Barack Obama doesn’t score much higher: he tweets like a seventh grader.

According to TIME’s analysis of 1 million public tweets, 33 percent of tweets test at a fourth grade reading level. The test relied upon a commonly used reading comprehension survey known as SMOG, or Simple Measure of Gobbledygook (really), to assess the complexity of messages sent on the social network. “Gobbledygook” is defined as a word of three or more syllables.

Who uses the most gobbledygook? You guessed it: politicians. Search for lawmakers like @NancyPelosi and @SpeakerBoehner to see how they measure up, or use the tool to find the reading level of any public twitter account.

SMOG results show that most tweets require no more than a fourth grade education to comprehend. Of course, a tweet’s limit of 140 characters makes it difficult to compose a message at a higher reading level. But not impossible. This test did pick up a handful of 12th-grade tweets, like this one from a senior curator at the Museum of Modern Art: “Design and violence: Nivedita Menon’s powerful essay on the mini-revolver marketed to women by the Indian government.”

Methodology

Tweets were downloaded with the Twitter API and run through a version of the SMOG test written for JavaScript. A search of a public account returns the 20 most recent tweets from that account. The page considers all of those tweets together as one long paragraph, which leads to higher accuracy than average the score for each tweet.

TIME

A Visual Guide to Every World Cup Match

Methodology Data for market value and performance taken from Transfermarkt. Market values are converted at $1.67 per pound. All flags: Getty Images.

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