30th May 2022
Further writings by Donald Henderson on spread of viruses
Donald Henderson wrote in 2012:
Life Sciences at a Crossroads: Respiratory Transmissible H5N1
Osterholm, Michael T. ; Henderson, Donald A.
WASHINGTON: American Association for the Advancement of Science
Science (American Association for the Advancement of Science), 2012-02-17, Vol.335 (6070), p.801-802
“Experiences with pandemic H1N1 show the problems of a strategy based on the assumption that an emerging influenza pandemic could be identified quickly in a localized geographic area with no, or very lim¬ited, travel in or out of the pandemic zone. As a result of extensive global travel, influenza A(H1N1)pmd09 infection was already occurring in a number of countries before the first isolate was identified”
Henderson in 2007
“Models may have a limited role in deciding appropriate response
actions, but mindless attention to modeled data is counterproductive. Even D.A. Henderson cautions against accepting models without scrutiny because they could ultimately create policies that “take a perfectly manageable epidemic and turn it into a national disaster.” – STANLEY M. LEMON ET AL., ETHICAL AND LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS IN MITIGATING PANDEMIC DISEASE 16 (2007).
There is limited empirical evidence supporting the effectiveness of social distancing in fighting the spread of infectious disease. … Based on computer simulation models, specific actions that might reduce disease transmission rates include school closures; keeping children and teens at home; voluntary home isolation and quarantine; and using antiviral drugs to treat the ill and providing prophylaxis to their household contacts. As Cetron explained, these measures form part of a much broader, layered approach to behavioral intervention, which extends from individual actions (hand hygiene, cough etiquette) to global efforts (containment at the source, advisories and screening for travelers).
While social distancing measures may help slow the spread of disease, they also pose a number of other potentially far-reaching consequences, and Cetron stressed the importance of anticipating these consequences and adapting the measures accordingly. The issue of school closure is particularly contentious in this regard. While modeling indicates it to be a potent means to reduce disease transmission, its adverse consequences could be so severe and inequitable as to outweigh any benefit. D.A. Henderson of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center cautioned against relying on models that do not take into consideration the adverse effects or practical constraints that such public health interventions would entail. Accepting such models uncritically, he warned, could result in policies that “take a perfectly manageable epidemic and turn it into a national disaster.” [source]