Coxcombs and Bell Curves

Florence Nightingale invented the coxcomb during her time nursing soldiers in the Crimea in the 1850s.  This pie chart demonstrated that more soldiers were dying from contagion (mainly cholera and typhus) than battle injury.  It helped her convince authorities of the need for infection control practices.

Nightingale Pie Chart

Another English influencer who used mathematical diagrams to explain disease patterns was William Farr.  During a Smallpox epidemic in 1840s London he showed the course of the epidemic with this graph.

Farr Smallpox Curve

This article at ScienceDirect states that “…William Farr made the observation that epidemic events rise and fall in a roughly symmetrical pattern that can be approximated by a bell-shaped curve“.  The phenomenon is known as Farr’s Law.  This curve is demonstrated for Coronavirus at Centre for Evidence Based Medicine’s article Covid-19: William Farr’s way out of the pandemic.

Covid Bell Curve

Report 9: Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and health care demand started the global lockdown response after Imperial College London published it on 16 March 2020.  Swiss Policy Research have summarised a range of information at Studies on Covid-19 Lethality.  They include this graph showing Imperial College’s mathematical modeling predictions, against what actually happened in Sweden who implemented “Lockdown Lite”.

Today someone shared this graph on Twitter, of the way Covid-19 has progressed in the Netherlands:

The latest estimated infection fatality rate for Covid-19 from Centers for Disease Control is now 0.65%.  Still up to six times higher than the usual fatality rate for influenza (which has different disease patterns), but a far cry from earlier estimates of 3.4% and great news in the face of such anxieties as the following gems.

Air outside tweet

The following two half hour interviews via UnHerd, an English channel exploring the pandemic, are worth listening to.  Firstly, Professor Neil Ferguson who co-authored Imperial College’s Report Nine (linked above), speaks here; and Professor Sunetra Gupta from Oxford University who argues very different points is interviewed by the same guy, here.


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