Covid-19 pandemic – A history of ignored warnings

After the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in December 2019, attention has been shifted to previous research and publications on risks of pandemics to global health. Although critics argue that the pandemic was unpredictable and anyone saying so suffers from hindsight bias, I would like to argue that the risks of this “low risk-high impact” scenario were well known by experts. In my opinion this global health crisis impressively demonstrates that our media and political system is corrupted because vital information is not passed on to decision makers and the public or does not lead to he required action. This has major implications for multiple other global crises which happen on a larger time-scale, such as the climate and ecological emergency. Here is a list of known warnings of a such a pandemic going back to 2007:

Brillant, L. (2006). My wish: Help me to stop pandemics. TED-Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/larry_brilliant_my_wish_help_me_stop_pandemics

And so my TED wish is based on the common denominator of these experiences. Smallpox — early detection, early response. Blindness, polio — early detection, early response. Pandemic bird flu — early detection, early response. It is a litany. It is so obvious that our only way of dealing with these new diseases is to find them early and to kill them before they spread. So, my TED wish is for you to help build a global system — an early-warning system –to protect us against humanity’s worst nightmares.

Cheng VC, Lau SK, Woo PC, Yuen KY (2007). Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus as an agent of emerging and reemerging infection. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2007 Oct;20(4):660-94. Review. PMID: 17934078, PDF: https://cmr.asm.org/content/cmr/20/4/660.full.pdf

” The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb. The possibility of the reemergence of SARS and other novel viruses from animals or laboratories and therefore the need for preparedness should not be ignored.”

Brillant, L. (2009). The Age of Pandemics. The Wall Street Journal. 2009-05-02, Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB124121965740478983

The threat of deadly new viruses is on the rise due to population growth, climate change and increased contact between humans and animals. What the world needs to do to prepare.

Gates, B  (2015). The next outbreak? We’re not ready [TED-Talk]. https://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates_the_next_outbreak_we_re_not_ready

“Today the greatest risk of global catastrophe doesn’t look like this [show nuclear mushroom]. Instead, it looks like this [shows influenza virus]. If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes. Now, part of the reason for this is that we’ve invested a huge amount in nuclear deterrents. But we’ve actually invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic. We’re not ready for the next epidemic.”

Rosling, H. (2018). Factfulness. Kindle edition.

“Serious experts on infectious diseases agree that a new nasty kind of flu is still the most dangerous threat to global health.” (p. 236 of 329, Kindle edition).

Fan Y, Zhao K, Shi ZL, Zhou P. (2019). Bat Coronaviruses in China. Viruses, 11(3). pii: E210. doi: 10.3390/v11030210. PDF: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6466186/pdf/viruses-11-00210.pdf (Note: Received: 29 January 2019!)

“Thus, it is highly likely that future SARS- or MERS-like coronavirus outbreaks will originate from bats, and there is an increased probability that this will occur in China. Therefore, the investigation of bat corona viruses becomes an urgent issue for the detection of early warning signs, which in turn minimizes the impact of such future outbreaks in China.”

Chomsky, N. (2019). Kollaborateure der Macht. In: Wernicke, J. & Pohlmann, D. (Hrsg). Die Öko Katastrophe. Mainz: Rubikon.

Die industrielle Fleischproduktion ist vor allem unmenschlich, aber sie trägt darüber hinaus  in großem Maße zur globalen Erwärmung bei. Zudem zerstört sie die Wirksamkeit von Antibiotika. Der übermäßige Einsatz von Antibiotika erzeugt mutierte Bakterien, die jeglichem Antibiotikum gegenüber resistent sind und bereits in Krankenhäusern auftreten. Sie könnten eine Riesenpandemie verursachen wie die Grippe-Pandemie vor einem Jahrhundert, der zig Millionen von Menschen zum Opfer fielen.

David E. Sanger, Eric Lipton, Eileen Sullivan and Michael Crowley (2020). Before Virus Outbreak, a Cascade of Warnings Went Unheeded. The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/19/us/politics/trump-coronavirus-outbreak.html

“The simulation’s sobering results — contained in a draft report dated October 2019 that has not previously been reported — drove home just how underfunded, underprepared and uncoordinated the federal government would be for a life-or-death battle with a virus for which no treatment existed.”

See also:

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24532724-700-we-were-warned-so-why-couldnt-we-prevent-the-coronavirus-outbreak/

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/04/experts-warned-pandemic-decades-ago-why-not-ready-for-coronavirus/

 

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