FARRELL: Epidemics And National Security
From Chris Farrell’s Article for The Daily Caller:
The COVID-19 pandemic – aka the “Wuhan virus” – has placed severe stresses on the global economy and American society. Quarantines, work-stoppages and supply shortages have become sudden and unwelcome facts of life in this country. The sense of uncertainty is fed by an endless information age diet of pandemic-related news, opinion and occasional disinformation.
The response from government and the people has been noteworthy. Federal, state and local authorities have been doing what they can to both mitigate the medical consequences of the outbreak and deal with the social and economic disruptions it has caused.
The country has suffered through such pandemics before, some much worse. I spoke recently with renowned virologist Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, author of the book, “Three Seconds Until Midnight,” which examines America’s response to the Spanish Influenza of 1918-1919 and looks forward to how America can best prepare for such a public health emergency. Dr. Hatfill noted that while the Spanish Flu was extremely serious, killing tens of millions of people worldwide, future outbreaks could be even worse. “The 21st Century is becoming the age of epidemics,” he said, due to larger and more tightly packed global populations, human encroachment into areas where viruses incubate, and increasing and more rapid global travel.
Yet we are not helpless before the onslaught of these diseases. Governments and the medical community have learned from past epidemics and have adopted protocols to deal with the most serious consequences of these outbreaks. Also, since the 1990s the Defense Department has developed plans and infrastructure to cope with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents as part of the CBRN Response Enterprise. Concepts designed for biodefense can be applied to pandemic preparedness, especially those intended to keep critical infrastructure up and running while the medical community deals with the health aspects of the crisis. As anyone who has tried to buy toilet paper or pasta recently knows, the disruption of the supply chain can create more problems than the disease.
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