The United States is, by the federal government’s own admission, the last major industrialized nation to adopt the I.C.D.-10. Still, its expansiveness does not trouble everyone. “There are thousands of words in the dictionary,” Donna Pickett, a C.D.C. classifications administrator, told me. “No one uses all of them at the same time—some are archaic and may never be used. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you take the words out.” Proponents note that many sections of the previous edition were lacking. Ebola didn’t have a code, and new advances, such as some types of laparoscopic surgery, had to be shoehorned in under old categories. The I.C.D.-10 allows for greater precision, which is good news for epidemiologists. Geoffrey C. Bowker, an informatics researcher at the University of California, Irvine, praises it for the same reason. What if you wanted to research hazards in a specific sort of gathering place? “We want to know what happens in opera houses,” Bowker said. “We want to know if there’s a particular kind of danger that’s associated with attending the opera, which I can’t particularly imagine, apart from boredom.”
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