Odds of Dying From a Viral Flu (Versus Winning Toto)

Tl;dr: Keep calm and carry on.

Statistical probabilities are a fact of life, and the currently topical issue of infectious illnesses makes such discussions interesting again.

Purely out of curiosity and boredom, here are some napkin Mathematics I’ve done on the probabilities of striking Singapore’s million-dollar Toto and dying from the coronavirus that has since reached our shores.

During 2003’s SARS, 238 people were infected. Singapore’s population then was roughly 4.2 million. That’s a 0.00567% chance. 33 people, or 13.9% of the victims, unfortunately succumbed to the illness. That makes the raw odds of dying from SARS 0.000786%.

The current coronavirus situation seems less severe than SARS. The mortality rate appears to be closer to 3% than SARS’s 11-13%. Singapore is also more prepared now, compared to how we were caught off guard almost 20 years ago. I think it’s fair to say that the odds of dying of this virus is roughly a quarter to that of SARS, but let’s divide it by a third just to be less optimistic. The estimated probability is about 0.000262%, roughly 1 in 381,679.

Comparatively, the odds of winning Group 3 in Toto is 1 in 55,491, or 0.00180%. In a \$12-million draw, that’s \$660,000! Pretty good odds relative to the chances of dying from a viral flu. If you have opted to wear a mask, consider buying Toto too – according to my flimsy Mathematics, you are 7 times likelier to win more than half a million dollars.

Hitting the Jackpot remains an astronomically tiny possibility: 1 in 13,983,816 – that’s 0.0000715%! Toto pundits might be discouraged to know that their pipe dream of striking the top prize for lottery is so improbable that it’s more likely to die from a flu virus that managed to hop from bats and civet cats to humans before finding its way to Singapore.

Keep things in perspective

Let’s all take the necessary precautions, but we shouldn’t allow fear to take over our lives. The common flu kills 600 people in Singapore annually but doesn’t generate the same levels of hysteria and paranoia as the current virus is creating. All we can do is to take reasonable precautions and live our lives as best we can… and buy Toto once in a while hoping for the best.