6. A quarantine is only effective if it is total and strict, a feat that is almost impossible for a government to pull off.

Pharmaceuticals are not a panacea, however. It takes considerable time and expense to create vaccines. And even if the United States develops a vaccine, production will likely take place in another country. In the event of a pandemic, there is a slim chance that the government of the producing nation would ever release those vaccines to the United States. Naturally, that government would want it for their own people.

NPIs (non-pharmaceutical interventions) have become a new area of research that focuses on prevention and public health response to minimize a pandemic’s impact. But NPIs carry their own challenges, one being that the influenza virus is airborne, and inhalation is the most common path to infection. At the same time, these viruses can stay on a doorknob or a glass for hours, or even days. A complete and strict self–quarantine might be the only foolproof way to avoid contracting the virus. But this means no going out, no picking up packages or mail piling up at your door, no contact with anyone for six to 10 weeks as the virus works its way through a locale.

Government-imposed quarantines will have limited effectiveness, as well. It’s hard to keep everyone indoors for that long, and to insist on it would be deleterious for the economy. It would ruin supply chains, and, while it might prevent further contamination via imports, it would also stop the flow of vital medical supplies, like gowns, masks, IV-bags and tubes, and medicine.

A total quarantine is the only way to curb a pandemic’s spread, but this is next to impossible for a government to pull off. Moreover, some case studies suggest that, with anything less than a total quarantine and closed borders, disease spreads at about the same rate through society. Between the high social and economic costs to a society, and the extreme difficulties in effecting a successful total quarantine, it’s not our best option.

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