To Live and Die (and Get Sick) in S.F.

What you should know about illin' in the city

The day you die will be like any other, Samuel Beckett wrote, only shorter. How you get there is the distinguishing quality.

According to the San Francisco Health Department, the most likely cause of death for women is heart disease, and for the first time AIDS is the No. 1 killer of San Francisco men, taking 1,195.

The most recent statistics compiled by the department are for 1992, a year in which more than 8,000 people died, or about 22 expirations a day.

Even if the Reaper doesn't come for you this year, you may find yourself on a first-name basis with one of the thousands of nasty viruses, parasites, and bacteria that infest the San Francisco biosphere. In 1994, 2,188 cases of AIDS were reported to the city, making it the No. 1 communicable disease.

People fear death but generally ignore disease, says Eileen Shields of the Health Department.

“People think, 'As long as I don't get AIDS, I don't care if I get gonorrhea or the clap or whatever,' ” Shields says. “Well, those people should come to the clinic and see the patients. That would make them change their attitude.”

So lose the attitude already. And remember that the best advice to stay healthy still comes from Dr. Mom — eat right, get some exercise, and (if she's told you once, she's told you a thousand times) wear your rubbers.

Top 10 Causes of Death in the City
1. AIDS 1,195 deaths
2. Heart Disease 1,094
3. Cancer 875
4. Stroke 230
5. Injuries, including
accidents and homicides 214
6. Pneumonia and Influenza 166
7. Lung Disease 128
8. Suicide 103
9. Drug Overdose 75
10. Diabetes 49

(Figures are from 1992 statistics and don't include 803 males who died from causes other than the ones listed here. Total male deaths in 1992: 4,932.)

1. Heart Disease 1,070 deaths
2. Cancer 723
3. Stroke 327
4. Pneumonia and Influenza 178
5. Lung Disease 129
6. Injuries, including
accidents and homicides 84
7. Diabetes 54
8. Suicide 40
9. AIDS 26
10. Drug Overdose 21

(Figures are from 1992 statistics and don't include 559 females who died from causes other than the ones listed here. Total female deaths in 1992: 3,211.)

Top 15 Communicable Diseases in the City
1. AIDS 2,188 cases
2. Chlamydia 2,156
3. Hepatitis B 1,963
4. Gonorrhea 1,894
5. Non-Gonococcal
Urethritis (an STD similar
to gonorrhea but caused by
a different bacteria) 779
6. Campylobacterosis
(bacteria in raw red meat) 615
7. Giardiasis 407
8. Hepatitis A 293
9. Tuberculosis 280
10. Amebiasis 255
11. Shigellosis 238
12. Pelvic Inflammatory
Disease 201
13. Salmonellosis
(bacteria in raw poultry) 199
14. Cryptosporidiosis 118
15. Meningitis 78

Source: San Francisco Department of Public Health, Bureau of Epidemiology and Disease Control. City officials don't have more recent information because funding for death statistics and analysis has been cut. Some afflictions, like herpes and genital warts, are not reported to the Health Department.

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