Maybe All That Complaining About Infectious Disease Does Some Good

While I’m under no illusions that Paul Krugman reads this crappy blog, it’s nice to see people worrying about infectious disease, especially antibiotic resistance (boldface mine):

Paul Krugman: If you look at the long sweep of history, global integration has tended to bring mass pandemics in its wake. My understanding is that you basically got waves of major plagues in the ancient world, pretty much whenever somebody controlled the steppes of Central Asia well enough that substantial commerce between China and the West could take place. Pretty soon afterwards, lots of people died. In the opening of the New World, it wasn’t the conquistadors, it was the microbes that really did it here.

Now we have this very integrated world with very uneven levels of public health. You have to think that a pandemic is at least a possibility. I think we can be reasonably sure that it won’t actually involve zombies, but aside from that, it’s a real threat.

Ezra Klein: I worry about that too, but I worry about it because I think it’s still hard for us to grok the level of bacterial integration we really have in the modern world. When I see the efforts to make sure that unauthorized immigrants can’t access government healthcare programs, I always wonder what folks think is going to happen if these people get sick? These are the people who are preparing our food and taking care of our children. And it just gets worse when you’re talking about threats outside our borders.

Paul Krugman: Yeah, the way Ebola was covered was about at the same level as media coverage of shark attacks. The public would have learned nothing. Maybe we would have learned we need to close the borders or we need to fear people who don’t look like us. I guess Time just named the Ebola responders their person of the year. Good for them, but the public has no idea of how much we depend upon this pretty much invisible line of defense that is looking pretty shabby these days.

We have been very lucky so far, but if something like carbapenem-resistance enterobacteriaceae (‘CRE’) continues to rise, we’ll be in deep shit (so to speak). As Krugman notes, most of the media will do a truly awful job of covering this which will not help.

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