The past few months have seen an avalanche of news stories on the swine flu.  And as usual, whenever the media focuses on a “new” disease, some of our OCD and Hypochondria clients find themselves obsessing about getting that disease.  This was true of Hantavirus in the mid-1990’s, Mad Cow disease in 2001, and SARS in 2003.  Do you remember the hundreds of news stories about these rare diseases?  One thing united most of these stories – irrational, exaggerated fear in response a relatively low-level threat.  That isn’t to say that nobody died from these diseases, but that the fear far exceeded the threat.

So let’s talk about the facts.  As of last week (June 19, 2009), the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 180 people in the entire world have died from the Swine flu.  Of those, 87 were in the United States, and 8 were in California.  None of those eight were in Los Angeles County – none.

For perspective, let’s look at how many people died in car accidents in 2007 (the last year for which complete records are available).  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 34,502 people died in vehicle accidents in the US in 2007.  And according to the State of California Office of Traffic Safety, 3,974 of those people died on the road in California in 2007.

Versus 8 Californians who have died in the swine flu pandemic so far.

I do not mean to diminish the lives of those who have perished from this disease.  I only mean to help people see that the threat is relatively small, and not worth the time and energy that some put into worrying about how to ensure that they do not get the disease.  So if you are one of those who have excessive concerns about the Swine flu, I hope these statistics help put things in perspective for you.

•Tom Corboy, MFT, is the director of the OCD Center of Los Angeles, a private, outpatient clinic specializing in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for the treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and related conditions.  In addition to individual therapy, the center offers six weekly therapy groups, as well as online therapy, telephone therapy, and intensive outpatient treatment.  To contact the OCD Center of Los Angeles, click here.