Ideally, not the public, ever. But there's much that needs to be done, now, to keep it that way.
Thank goodness you’ve revived Insight. I’ve missed it.
When I read each of those articles, I felt relief that your systemic perspective was once again publicly present, and that your sanity could again help sift the wheat from the chaff.
In both cases I found it hard to read user comments because so many missed the point and went immediately to the emotional impact of the topic rather than to your line of reasoning. It was as if you hadn’t said, We’ve got to prevent this before it’s a pandemic, but rather, Another pandemic is coming, get ready! Or that rather than your casting light on the mechanisms by which the British royalty manipulate the tabloids as part of spreading their obnoxious views behind the scenes, you were castigating those whose honor must be upheld at all costs.
I react both with disparagement that it’s (as usual) the myth of Sisyphus come real; and with gratitude that you have the vision, clarity of presentation, and persistence to continue.
Something I'd really like to see for general pandemic preparedness.
Let's talk about insurance. That's how we prepare, financially, for losses we wouldn't otherwise be able to deal with: fires, car crashes, property damage, illnesses, etc.
When insurance companies get slammed with lots of claims, all at once, they turn to big reinsurance companies like Lloyd's, Swiss Re, Munich Re, etc. Unfortunately those contracts can get kind of messy, and the actual amount of a large loss can be difficult to measure (adjust) so someone came up with the idea of parametric insurance. With that, instead of attempting to determine the actual loss, you link the contract to some sort of index: crop yields, heating/cooling degree days, distance from an earthquake of a certain magnitude, etc.
It occurs to me that wastewater surveillance would be a good fit for such instruments. Not sure how much more it needs to mature to get the attention of reinsurers, but....surely only a matter of time. And someone with a NYT column, perhaps.
Thank God for your sanity. Shine on!
Oy vey, sorry to hear The Markle-hate Reddit group has placed a Union Jack on your back. It’s probably something to be proud of, but don’t worry I’ve got your back. Nevertheless, thank you for putting a target on the back of pesky viruses and associated social issues for the hunters of truth and justice to see. With your erudite analyses of things, pathogens around the world may be royally screwed!
This particular morning, I so needed to hear your good sense and feel your generous heart.
Read the excellent ‘royals not royal’ piece when you released it, and gobbled up the
new virus piece. Wanted to forward it to Ed Yong but surely he read it before me.
Thank you, Zeynep, I would name children after you…
"But at a human level, too, what has been happening to the couple is terrible, and inexcusable. The UK tabloids churn out awful multiple pieces about them, day-after-day, now for years."
Meghan Markle is a supreme narcissist.
The deadliest of the 7 deadly sins is pride.
The pieces may be awful but so are the Markles.
Use the Markles to make a point but please don't excuse their deadly sin.
We excuse Joe Biden's pride and the ole codger taunts the Russians.
You have been early with recognizing traits of Covid, especially as an aerosol. That's why I'm a paid subscriber.
Covid is mishandled in America because we elect and pay attention to narcissists.
Please help break that focus. It is more deadly than spreading the droplet theories ala CDC.
Also, check out OK Doomers on substack. Where you are early, Jessica Wildfire is voluminous. Both are essential to treating pandemics. Early is great. Thoroughly is great.
Thanks for staying on the case.
A couple of perhaps naive questions.
1. AIUI each year the "regular" flu vaccine is formulated to protect against a set of strains chosen to maximize expected total protective value. Is there any technical reason why we couldn't include H5N1 in that set of strains for this coming fall's vaccine as a prudential measure?
2. For those of us who regularly write letters to congressfolk, who are the "right" people to write to about this to increase their sense of public concern and urgency? Is there an FDA or CDC public comment period/topic which one should participate in to urge more preparedness against H5N1, for example?
I just couldnt imagine making it thru the last 3 years and not learning about the deep flaws of the authorities handling anything. The censorship the totalitarianism and the stripping of peoples bodily autonomy. It sounds as tho the author didnt read the full stories but only the propaganda put out by the state sponsored media. Eek
Thank you for this post!
I suggest placing greater emphasis on high-quality respirators, as the measures currently being discussed, such as surveillance/quarantine, vaccines, and regulation of animal husbandry, can only provide limited protection against even a mild pandemic like covid. The establishment of a comprehensive virus surveillance system is unlikely in the near future, and some quarantines will inevitably leak. Vaccines take time to develop and distribute. And increased regulation of animal husbandry will be uneven at best. Also, it may become easier for individuals to create viruses in the future, leading to the potential for many pandemics to spread simultaneously. A better way to prevent pandemic-caused, widespread death and social and economic instability is to encourage or require everyone to obtain respirators before pandemics develop.
Could you consider two counterfactuals to your thesis?
1) Are we falling for the "Snake in the Tree" fallacy. When Adam bites the apple, and realizes he is naked for the first time, he freaks out at his sudden knowledge of nakedness, rather than accepting he was naked all along and didn't care.
Could it be humanity has always been encountering these viruses, on a daily basis, for the 3 million years since our earliest hominid ancestors walked the earth? And our sudden "discovery" of all of these "new" viruses is because we developed genetic testing to finally detect them in humans in mass scale for the first time just under 30 years ago? Does no one else see the correlation between the scrutiny and frequency?
The harder we look, the more we find. Shouldn't that tell us that perhaps had we swabbed 1 billion people in 1890 with PCR tests we may have found the dominant viral pathogen was everywhere then too and this isn't some new thing?
This general thesis - promoted by the Ralph Baric's of the world - that these so-called novel pathogens are an emerging *new* threat, caused by (insert: global warming, encroachment of wildlife, mink farms, etc) and that it is only by sheer luck that he has arrived just in time to save us (this is the entire premise of the very-pro narrative "The Invisible Siege" by Dan Werb).
I find this akin to Clyde Tombaugh deciding that after seeing Pluto for the first time thanks to the Lowell Telescope, that it must have suddenly appeared, rather than the obvious - it was always he just didn't have the right tool to see it until now.
More likely, whatever we are seeing HXNY is what we would have seen in 1923, 1823, 1723.... 6023 bc had we had the tools back then.
2) You note: "Many of the anti-vaccine players seem to be playing a game of lucrative grift usually via outright misrepresentation — and some are even MDs, which is atrocious."
You are making the fallacy of conflating traditional "Anti Vaxxers" with intelligent people who haven't been convinced this particular vaccine is beneficial. I assure you, the Venn Diagram is not a circle. Almost every person I know who has passed on the Covid vaccines have all of their traditional vaccines.
To continue to pretend that they are the same ignores the reality of how few people bothered with the boosters, who the 80% who got the vaccine decided not to give it to their kids, how country after country is backing away, halting boosters in various cohorts, cancelling orders.
There are two undeniable facts at play which caused this credibility crisis:
1) It was widely acknowledged pre-2020 that flu and coronaviruses pose significant problems in vaccine development. The risk was always that the wrong vaccine could make the population more prone to the virus. This is not some far-right theory. This was a well documented problem.
2) Almost every single country that mass vaccinated had more all cause deaths in 2021 and early 2022. South Korea, Denmark, Portugal, US, New Zealand, Israel, Australia, Germany, etc.
I am not arguing the vaccine caused this effect. I would say this indicates the Covid vaccines weren't very effective preventing deaths, which was the final goal post they were shifted to after the 180 on granting immunity was pocketed.
As a Systems Engineer, who sees how systems work, please Zeynep, as a systems thinker, how would you explain this?
The only explanation would be -"Well look at all the countries that didn't get mass vaccinated" - but they all fared just fine.
Among the ironic twists in the wicked problem of how to stop pandemics in today's world is a lack of humility among epidemiologists, and perhaps the scientific elite, regarding common folk. In particular the mathematical models of Covid spread appeared to have been created in ivory tower silos and included neither the social response to non-pharmaceutical measures nor the downstream costs in the USA of loss of income and jobs and associated so-called "health care benefits" . Yet these effects dominated the spread more than a typical susceptible-infected-recovered type geographic model.
The impact of Covid in the USA has been very deep and long lasting. We have in a way become immunized, not to Covid, but to actions Public Health might ask for in our own interests. Laws have been passed or changed to severely cut back the ability of Public Health to respond, and those laws will take a long time to change back, during which time the next pandemic will gain a massive foothold.
On a planetary scale, of course, this is self-correcting, since nations that refuse to cope with deadly pathogens will suffer the most loss of life and function. The planet and species will "learn" by survival of the wisest on that scale. Meanwhile the unnecessary human cost will be enormous.
There is a non-zero risk that the USA will suffer enough damage that it will no longer be a super-power. Which will be blamed on the usual targets leading to a redoubling of the efforts which caused the problem in the first place. People may argue heatedly about who is right, but Darwinian selection will have its own say about who is wise.
It's not clear what type of effort could possibly head off that outcome. We are in a "gambler's ruin" stochastic process, watching the flying bathtub falling past our floor with the occupants holding a plastic blue steering wheel and shouting proudly "Not dead yet!".
Compounding mind-sets in the USA or possibly the West are the very strong identity beliefs that "It can't happen here - we're exceptional!" and "It can't happen to me - I'm exceptional!" therefore all contrary data can be dismissed out of hand.
I wish it were not so.
Intriguing piece, Zeynep. The H5N1 issue brings to light the urgent need for aggressive action to avert another pandemic scare. It is startling how virus mutation among minks can set us on a perilous path, much like the catastrophe experienced in the wake of COVID. It also sheds light on the interdependence of life forms and our responsibilities to every species on the planet. On an aside, for anyone interested in the AI domain mentioned, I stumbled upon a fascinating application of AI. It's LoveBoost-AI (http://dating.tiktak-studio.com) which utilizes generative AI to optimize your dating app images. It's a fun use of technology, akin to how AI is being used to address critical health issues as this article rightly brings to light.
Zeynep abla yorumları okuyon mu okuyorsan seviliyorsun <3