What the US can learn from other countries on COVID-19 – and its own history with pandemics


Amid harsh isolation efforts to cease the unfold of COVID-19, it’s solely pure to ask how a microscopic agent can kill hundreds of individuals, topple economies and disrupt life for tons of of hundreds of thousands of individuals.

COVID-19, the illness brought on by the physique’s response to this new viral invader, is wreaking havoc for 3 foremost causes. It is a brand new illness from a virus that has by no means contaminated people earlier than, so people don’t have any pure immunity to it. Second, there isn’t any vaccine to forestall COVID-19. Third, there aren’t any medicine to deal with it. Once it begins spreading in a neighborhood, it sickens and kills.

This leaves social isolation and quarantine as the perfect methods to forestall the unfold. The solely option to deal with it’s with consolation care, which incorporates offering respiration help by ventilators when obligatory. People who die from it often die alone due to the chance of an infection.

But prevention efforts, even with isolation and quarantine, have been hampered right here within the U.S. by an ongoing shortage of reliable tests. Without understanding who has it, it’s not possible for well being officers to understand how widespread isolation ought to be, or how lengthy it ought to final. Caring for the hundreds who’ve the illness has led to governors of many states begging for more personal protective equipment for hospital employees and respiratory gear for sufferers.

Yet some international locations already appear to be stemming the unfold and flattening the curve. In China, the variety of new circumstances is leveling off. Now there are a number of hundred per day, versus hundreds of latest each day circumstances just weeks ago. Similarly, international locations comparable to Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan have been counseled for his or her efforts to sluggish illness unfold regardless of their proximity to China.

As a professor on the Texas A&M School of Public Health, my experience is in catastrophe epidemiology and public well being emergency preparedness. With circumstances burgeoning within the U.S., I consider many Americans can study from different nations and our personal historical past with pandemic illness.

Lessons from the previous

Pandemics will not be new. In 2003, a SARS (extreme acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak resulted in additional than 8,000 cases in 26 international locations. In 2009 as many researchers had been specializing in H5N7, a model of the influenza virus that’s widespread in poultry, a swine-related flu recognized H1N1 was reported in California. H1N1 was distinctive in that youthful individuals appeared to don’t have any pure immunity, whereas seniors did, most likely because of prior exposure to an identical H1N1 pressure.

SARS and H1N1 had been unhealthy, however their transmissibility doesn’t match COVID-19, which is way more contagious. Compared to the coronavirus, they had been introduced below management slightly simply. But from these outbreaks, public well being officers learned a lot in regards to the effectiveness of public well being interventions. Quarantine, hand hygiene and social distancing are the best-known. But different interventions emerged throughout these earlier pandemics and at the moment are receiving scrutiny as soon as once more.

During H1N1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supplied self-assessment types on its web site for individuals who had been apprehensive about having influenza or doubtlessly having been uncovered. Also, the CDC supplied types by the mail to individuals who had been apprehensive about having influenza or who had been uncovered. This allowed individuals to trace onset of signs and any adjustments they observed. Those “flu self-assessments,” accessible on the web site Flu.gov, enabled customers to doc signs from the protection of dwelling.

In the age of coronavirus, an identical program would clearly reduce the burden on the well being care infrastructure. There are web sites at the moment providing symptom data and danger evaluation instruments primarily based on CDC steerage, however no kind for many who are self-isolating to trace the development of their signs.

Drive-through “fever clinics,” frequent in 2009, had been the antecedents to the drive-through COVID-19 take a look at websites now opening all through the nation. But success has been blended. In Texas, early stories from COVID-19 drive-through testing point out they’ve been profitable, with different states having logistical points. In Colorado, some waited for hours solely to be informed to go dwelling; they had been out of take a look at kits for the remainder of the day.

What the US can learn from other countries on COVID-19  – and its own history with pandemics
Tourists in D.C. stroll close to the Washington Monument regardless of the COVID-19 outbreak, March 22, 2020. Getty Images / Daniel Slim

Lessons realized from different international locations

Some different international locations have been profitable at stemming the unfold of COVID-19 whereas the U.S. has struggled. There are a number of causes.

One large distinction was that success in different international locations was linked to the early initiation of widespread testing. That stated, some stories steered that these early tests were not as sensitive as they need to have been, which means they doubtlessly didn’t seize numerous constructive circumstances.

Also, the communication of quarantine and social distancing pointers from authorities officers was transparent and consistent. A speedy response relating to border closures, community lockdowns, occasion cancellations and faculty closures had been crucial in Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and China.

Other international locations, significantly Italy and France, had been far much less profitable. The largest downside: individuals not complying with the social distancing mandates, or not understanding them. This features a failure to completely element directions for quarantining a house the place a number of generations of a household dwell collectively. Without correct communication, exposure is increased.

The US downside

Yes, some international locations adopted considerably draconian measures, together with government charges or hefty fines for failure to adjust to authorities directives.

How would possibly the U.S. implement much less stringent actions to raised defend its individuals?

It gained’t be simple. In different international locations, most authority resides with its federal authorities; states, counties, provinces and communities usually have far much less energy. This consolidation of energy makes it far easier to provoke broad, sweeping mandates which can be simpler to implement. Activating the navy in different international locations, for example, is easier than right here within the United States. These are additionally international locations the place following the foundations is a part of the social norm.

Our Founding Fathers, fearing tyranny, framed our Constitution in order that a lot of the ability resides on the state level. The Posse Comitatus Act limits the navy’s function in emergency response to the states. So what the U.S. has now could be a federal authorities creating options based on evidence-based steerage; particular person states are then charged with making operational selections primarily based on that steerage. But every state has a distinct capability to reply. Developing a unified “American” response will likely be a problem.

What people can do

The greatest motion people can take in the mean time: Don’t panic. Be good. Experts know that social distancing, frequent hand-washing and never touching your face, significantly after contact with surfaces outdoors the house, all work to sluggish the outbreak. And, with out pure immunity, a vaccine or medicines, they’re the best weapons accessible to halt the COVID-19 outbreak.

The U.S., with its dedication to particular person liberty and a “bottoms-up” strategy to emergency response, is vastly completely different from different international locations. But let’s not make the American spirit a hindrance. Instead, let’s leverage it through the use of private duty to sluggish the unfold of COVID-19.

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