How to stop a pandemic

Take very special note of those last three words in Devi Sridhar’s quoted remarks. The words “chains of infection” provide the most apt description of the problem. We must break all chains of infection so as to be able to claim a measure of success. Obviously, we have had considerable success. But as long as one chain remains it can grow and branch and grow again.

The only certain way to break chains of infection is to starve the virus of new hosts. The only effective way to do this is to isolate everybody and keep them isolated until there are no more chains of infection. If this is not possible, then you get as close to it as you can. Success in eradicating the virus from a population is a function of the degree of success in achieving total isolation.

Isolation happens at the level of the individual and takes two form – distance and barrier. Or, obviously, some combination of the two. The more effectively distance is maintained the less need there is for some form of barrier – which could be anything from a simple face-mask to a full Hazmat suit. The converse is also true. Distance isolation hardly matters if you’re fully suited up. But the less complete and reliable the barrier isolation the more need there is to maintain distance isolation.

All of which sounds like little more than ‘common sense’. But the most important bit is yet to come. Because all chains of infection must be broken, and because there is no way to know if you are a link in a chain of infection until after you’ve functioned as a link and because you have no way of knowing if the chain of infection you might be on will be broken by someone else, you have to proceed as if you are a link in a chain of infection and must be the break. You be the break in the chain of infection by implementing the strictest isolation you are capable of and maintaining it as long as possible.



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