Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

H5N1: Politicians and people just don’t get it

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-04-01

Decreasing mortality from H5N1 influenza is almost a minor issue.  Just as much misery, if not more, is caused by the actions required to minimize infections.

Whether farmers are too sick to grow food, workers are too sick to distribute it, or gatherings of people in offices or public transport are restricted to minimize infection, the population will have a hard time getting food, or being able to pay for it.

The same practical issues of managing societies that have economic activity shut down apply to any highly contagious emerging disease: getting a vaccine for one doesn’t help you with another, while having a plan to deal with a cessation of economic activity to minimize infection helps with any dangerous microbial agent.

Do the politicians get this?  Probably not: or if they do, they aren’t letting on because they have no plans to manage such crises.  Do populations get this?  No: because they’d be demanding the planning details from the politicians.

Remember: it’s not a matter of if an emerging highly contagious disease goes through a nation, or even becomes a pandemic, it’s a matter of when.  Further, as any competent risk management expert will tell you, risk accounting uses accrual.  If you rate something as likely to happen once every 20 years, you cannot "reset the clock" every year: after 15 years, you’ve got to act as if the probability is approximately 1 in 5.

It’s time we started demanding and debating contingency plans, not just for H5N1, but for the general condition of highly-transmissible serious emergent disease.

See Also:

2 Responses to “H5N1: Politicians and people just don’t get it”

  1. […] Updated original article with extra links […]

  2. […] David Bath thinks it’s time we woke up to the possible social problems H5N1 could cause. […]

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