While there's likely some data inflation there, the other explanation is that it's really hard to classify causes of death (I've covered some of this before). Even with infectious disease, this can be tricky. If an HIV positive person contracts tuberculosis and dies, do they go under HIV mortality, or tuberculosis? If malnutrition leaves on susceptible to other infections, what's the real cause of death? How about a bad water supply that carries ringworm?
I bring this up because I saw a fascinating stat today over at the New Yorker (via Farnam St):
What Is The Most Effective Killing Machine Man Has Ever Seen?Mosquitoes.
There has never been a more effective killing machine. Researchers estimate that mosquitoes have been responsible for half the deaths in human history.Malaria accounts for much of the mortality, but mosquitoes also transmit scores of other potentially fatal infections, including yellow fever, dengue fever, chikungyunga, lymphatic filariasis, Rift Valley fever, West Nile fever, and several types of encephalitis. Despite our technical sophistication, mosquitoes pose a greater risk to a larger number of people today than ever before. Like most other pathogens, the ciruses and parasites borne by mosquitoes evole rapidly to resist pesticides and drugs.
via “The Mosquito Solution,” ($$$) The New Yorker, July 9 & 16, 2012, p. 40