Thoughts on economics and liberty

Donald Henderson and the index case problem (“patient zero”)

I’ve commented on this issue elsewhere and

But since 98% of the world’s epidemiologists don’t understand this, let me also note here.

David Henderson, Dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, who helped eradicate small pox, was a staunch opponent of international border closures and quarantines. Australia’s public health “experts” are monumentally ignorant in comparison.

On 5 March 2010 in a conference on “The 2009 H1N1 experience: policy implications for future infectious disease emergencies” he said (this is an extract):

When even small pox could never be stopped, how can respiratory viruses be stopped at the border?

International border closures and quarantines were antiquated as a public health policy by the 1960s and were NEVER recommended since then. THEY HAVE BEEN RE-INVENTED BY THE CCP.


In the smallpox program there were the questions: What do we do about screening people?

And this was something we were really deeply concerned about with smallpox.

And so, we went into the records rather thoroughly since about 1945. And there are about just under 50 importations of smallpox that could be well-documented.

And the question is: How many might we have intercepted who might have had just fever or rash?

And the fact was none.

So, anything we were doing at a border crossing to try to interrupt smallpox coming across the border would have been quite futile.

I then had some discussions with our CDC colleagues and the quarantine group down there and thought about this. I thought, you know, as I said to them, CDC investigates a lot of different outbreaks, and many of these you can tell which are the first case [THE INDEX CASE], and so forth. It’d be interesting to see how many instances we could identify in which that first individual might have been intercepted coming into the country.

And I’m still waiting for one example so far.

I think the point is that this idea that in this day and age one is going to intercept people coming across the border and you’re going to stop the spread of the disease is a concept that was antiquated a very long time ago.


Lessons from the eradication of smallpox: an interview with D. A. Henderson


The reason why Henderson wrote this 2006 article – to fight quarantines and such stupid ideas of computer programmers

An extract from Jay Bhattacharya’s video comment on Donald Henderson:


In this video I explain the index case problem in English.

In this video I explain the index problem in Hindi.


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Sanjeev Sabhlok

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