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America Should Prepare for a Double Pandemic

The Atlantic – COVID-19 has steamrolled the country. What happens if another pandemic starts before this one is over? – Ed Yong – “…Certain traits increase a pathogen’s pandemic potential. Those that spread via bodily fluids (Ebola), contaminated food and water (norovirus), or insect bites (Zika) are slower to spread around the world. By contrast, respiratory viruses like flu, which spread through coughs, sneezes, and exhalations, could conceivably travel fast enough to overlap with COVID-19. Many countries are on high alert for such viruses, primed by their COVID-19 ordeal in the same way that East Asian countries were primed at the start of this pandemic by their previous run-ins with SARS and MERS. But waning global solidarity is a problem. “Our international laws are based on a bargain that countries will rapidly notify each other [about emerging diseases] and, in exchange, they’ll have protection against the economic impacts of sharing that info,” says Alexandra Phelan of Georgetown University, who works on legal and policy issues related to infectious diseases. That compact was violated during COVID-19, after China suppressed information about the outbreak and other countries quickly implemented travel bans. The U.S. is now on the receiving end of many such bans. Having failed to lead the best-prepared nation in the world against one pandemic, Donald Trump has made it more vulnerable to another. He has, for example, frayed international bonds further by trying to pull the U.S. out of the World Health Organization. Whether he has the legal authority to do so is still unclear, but even if the threat is empty, “some of the effects will be immediate,” says Loyce Pace, the president of the Global Health Council. U.S. officials and experts will start disengaging from international institutions, and that might encourage other nations to follow suit…”

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