I am newly enamored of a publication called Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It's published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and it is just what it sounds like: A bunch of articles about the popularity of various ways to die, or get sick.
I first encountered this publication while digging for more info on the "George Bush gave your daughters syphilis" meme. And now, over at John Tierney's New York Times science blog, a guest post covers yet another Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report gem: Cow-induced fatalities.
The article examines 21 cow-caused deaths (2003-2007) in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.
In 16 cases, "the animal was deemed to have purposefully struck the victim," the report states. In 5 other cases, people were crushed against walls or by gates shoved by the cattle. Ten of the attacks were by bulls, 6 by cows and 5 by "multiple cattle." A third of the deaths were caused by animals that had been aggressive in the past.
All but one of the victims died from head or chest injuries; the last died after a cow knocked him down and a syringe in his pocket injected him with an antibiotic meant for the cow. In at least one case the animal attacked from behind, when the person wasn't looking. Older men with arthritis and hearing aids have the highest risk of being injured by livestock, the report says, probably because they don't hear the animals charging and can't move fast enough to get out of the way.
A modest proposal: Cow deaths should become the touchstone to signify real but over-hyped potential causes of death. As in: "Sure, cable news producers are freaking out about the latest trace-amounts-of-rat-poison-found-in-kiwi-fur health scare. But you're more likely to be killed by a cow than die from this one."
No word on the numbers of deaths caused by cows with guns (skip to 2:05 for the stirring chorus):