Maybe We Won’t All Die in a Pandemic

The high frequency of modern travel has led to concerns about a devastating pandemic since a lethal pathogen strain could spread worldwide quickly. Many historical pandemics have arisen following pathogen evolution to a more virulent form. However, some pathogen strains invoke immune responses that provide partial cross-immunity against infection with related strains. Here, we consider a mathematical model of successive outbreaks of two strains: a low virulence strain outbreak followed by a high virulence strain outbreak. Under these circumstances, we investigate the impacts of varying travel rates and cross-immunity on the probability that a major epidemic of the high virulence strain occurs, and the size of that outbreak. Frequent travel between subpopulations can lead to widespread immunity to the high virulence strain, driven by exposure to the low virulence strain. As a result, major epidemics of the high virulence strain are less likely, and can potentially be smaller, with more connected subpopulations. Cross-immunity may be a factor contributing to the absence of a global pandemic as severe as the 1918 influenza pandemic in the century since.

From a new paper in bioRxiv, the biological preprint service analagous to arXiv.

Hat tip: Paul Kedrosky.


That’s good if we get the low-virulence strain first. But with today’s travel patterns we’ve also seen the epidemic of HIV, which has killed roughly half as many people as the 1918 flu.

Treatment for HIV has advanced to the point that HIV+ persons receiving treatment don't have a noticeably diminished life expectancy.

I don't think it's a fair comparison.

> if we get the low-virulence strain first

Unless it's a totally new or really rare disease, we're swimming in low virulence strains all the time.

Historically, isolated people are always the most vulnerable when new diseases are introduced. Just ask the Maori. Oh wait, you can't. They're all dead.

Sorry troll, but you are still a loser.

What? According to Stats New Zealand, the current Maori population in NZ is New Zealand's estimated Māori population is 734,200. There are more than 142,000 Maori in Australia too. Given that population estimates were around 100,000 before European contact, they're not doing that badly.

I think you may be confusing the Maori with the Tasmanians. The latter were the most isolated and primitive people on Earth. They didn't even know how to make fire. The Maori were about the same level if civilizational development as other Polynesians

[The Tasmanians] were the most isolated and primitive people on Earth. They didn't even know how to make fire.

That will definitely get you removed from the homo sapiens gene pool.

1918 flu deaths worldwide 50-100 million. HIV flu deaths worldwide 3 million.

HIV deaths overall: 35 million

That number is mostly in Africa. Early on in the HIV crisis the various NGOs discovered that if the deaths were attributed toi HIV that more money would come their way than if the deaths were reported as caused by malaria. So they began reporting all those deaths as HIV. The data is inaccurate and unreliable.

Agree with Matt F above. A slow-motion car crash is still a car crash.

Also, I can't remember where I read it but there are historical (China, Germany during the 30 years war, etc.) and modern theoretical applications of a concept often referred to as self-quarantine. Rather than shutting everyone out of a hot zone you conversely shut everyone in. You remove all transportation and communicable methods available to the virus within the entire population, not just the affected group.

This would of course require significant pre-planning. Things like requiring all families to have enough supplies to sustain 1 month of isolation as well as national civil and military plans to lock down all travel. Now contingency plans for the economy in such a scenario? Savior thy name is Amazon Drone Delivery....

I would worry more about antibiotic resistance in common everyday diseases, rather than pandemics of new and exotic diseases.

Looks like I’m the biggest cuck around these parts

But maybe we will.

That possibility evokes an objective function of minimizing maximum regret.

The modern propensity to rigidly control rare and minor risks (school shootings, transgender marginalization) while being squeamish about controls for likely major risks (pandemics, wars, terrorism) will be the death of all of us.


Our CDC's having functioned in the recent past as our Center for the Dissemination of Coronaviruses does not offer us too much comfort.

At least two questions:

1) How well can we train threatening viruses to follow the infection and morbidity patterns that our mathematical modeling of disease outbreak might prefer?

2) At what point of epidemic or pandemic outbreak would global airline traffic be prohibited from "hot" locales? (Would/Could these "service disruptions" be imposed indefinitely over the months it might take for any local outbreak of any infectious disease to subside?)

Readers might note that at its national 2001 convention (in August, in Chicago) American Bar Assn. members were asked to contemplate scenarios dealing with outbreaks of disease triggered by bioterrorism: the imposition of martial law within individual states or for affected metro areas was seen as a natural consequence to limit spreads of both infections and panics. (--which could yield fresh questions about how trustworthily today even a Democratic governor or mayor could invoke or impose martial law to stem a perceived public health menace.)

The actual Edward Burke would have had a lot more experience with quarantines and the legal framework surrounding them - such as quarantining ships, which is still legal.

He would have had a problem with 'Democratic governor or mayor,' though.

Yellow fever or plague don't actually have a political bias, and the responses to them in the past didn't either.

--but I am an actual Edward Burke (there was once a Chicago alderman named Ed Burke but I never held any grudge against him for that).

Another actual E. Burke was that Edmund Burke fellow (no known direct ancestry), many of whose views and arguments remain fresh and relevant today.

So there are three Edmund Burkes?

I know of only the one, but I'd welcome the advent of another as long as he's possessed of similar native intelligence, judicious disposition, and literary substance.

How is this new paper any different than what actually happened with the 1918 Spanish flu? A low-virulence epidemic hit people 20 years before, they were immunized, but the young solders were not in 1918 and they died.

Bonus trivia: "Ebola broke out in DRC's north-eastern provinces in August [2018] and has killed close to 200 people and spread to areas close to Uganda. A thriving cross-border trade and social movements and events between relatives living on either side of the frontier has prompted the government to strengthen screening amid fears the deadly hemorrhagic fever could spill over into the country." - but they now have a vaccine for it, maybe it's effective?

death toll 50-100 million. More than just soldiers

Yes but the point is there were two classes of people, just like the paper says is 'good', but there still was a pandemic.

"And we will all go together when we go.

What a comforting fact that is to know.

Universal bereavement,

An inspiring achievement,

Yes, we all will go together when we go."

Cucks like you and me

Tom Lehrer has a cherry little song with just that title.

Back in 2013, I tried to assuage Tyler's handshake-germophobia by advancing a similar theory: if the person whose hand you're shaking isn't visibly sick, anything you get from them could be a mild natural innoculant:

Fuck FUck Cuck Cuck FUck Cuck Fuck Cuck CUUUCKK FUCKKK

JWatts doesn't normally post like that. I wonder what's going on?

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