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Karen Vilas

published on

May 2020

The world is experiencing an international crisis the magnitude of which hasn’t been seen in a generation. During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, Dr. Paul Slovic studied how novel threats provoke anxiety1, saying “…it hit all of the hot buttons: It can be fatal, it is invisible and hard to protect against, exposure is involuntary and it’s not clear that the authorities are in control of the situation.” The study focused on how people perceive risk and what causes them to overreact to epidemics, terrorist attacks, and other extreme events; what Dr. Slovic’s study did not include was a comparison of the risks associated with everyday life to the risk of fatality from these fear-inducing exposures. The intent of this white paper is to provide a background on everyday risks and compare them to the risk of fatality from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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