The Best Ways to Tackle Pandemics
Updated: Jul 14
The COVID-19 outbreak is undoubtedly one of the toughest periods we'll have to endure in a generation, but the unfortunate fact of the matter is that outbreaks of infections diseases are more common than you may think. Whether it is a severe flu season or a new infection from a remote area, pandemics are difficult situations we must account and prepare for like extreme weather events. But what are the best ways to tackle an enemy that, unlike a cyclone or tsunami, cannot be seen?
Listen to Science, Apply Medical Knowledge
Pandemics are generally continuing situations that develop, expand, and shrink over a period of time. During the stages of a pandemic, even when little information is available about the illness, scientists are working around the clock to further understand the outbreak and how it can be contained. Because of the developing nature of the situation messages from medical bodies may evolve over time but it is important that we listen to them and apply their advice at every turn.
Applying scientific and medical advice may involve the following:
Governments funding research and development into treatments and vaccines.
Governments boosting access to available medications and increasing health service capacities.
Regions taking on environmental measures such as widespread cleaning.
Communities taking measures such as the cancelling of large gatherings.
Individuals taking personal preventative measures like quarantining.
All of these measures have the ultimate goal of "flattening the curve" so that minimal people die from the illness and eventually we can defeat or deplete the infection to the point where we can return to our normal lives.
Practice Good Hygiene
It may seem like a minor detail but good hygiene during an outbreak period is one of the key ways in which individuals can help tackle a pandemic. When we say good hygiene we mean a combination of the following practices:
Washing hands with soap and warm water regularly -- particularly before preparing food, before eating meals, and after touching surfaces outside the home.
Using hand sanitisers when you do not have access to soap/water.
Regularly showering, brushing teeth, and changing clothes.
Coughing or sneezing into your elbow to minimise the spread of germs. Or better yet, wearing a disposable mask if you are unwell to help contain any nasties you may have.
Soap and warm water seem like extremely simple items but combined they can kill most bacteria and viruses, which is why good cleanliness is vital during an outbreak and why impoverished areas without access to clean water will generally have worse outcomes in a pandemic situation.
Use Data To Predict and Achieve Successful Outcomes
We live in a fortunate age when it comes to the amount of data we can accumulate and how easily we can access it. Data is another key tool that we have as a society against pandemics because data can give us insight into the spread of an illness that will help establish how scientists and doctors will go about researching and treating the ill.
Data in this case may include:
The number of people infected.
Where they became infected (the regional "cluster" or even the physical location).
The severity of their infection.
The number of people who have died from the disease.
The number of people who have recovered from the disease.
The number of people who have relevant antibodies.
Traffic in certain states, regions, public transport lines, etc.
Data may come from sources as diverse as governments, hospitals, social media, and crowdmapping. By using data we can put what we know to good use and predict where potential hotspots may occur, which areas may need additional assistance, which groups of individuals may be vulnerable, and how best to treat/eliminate the disease down the track.
Another major factor in tackling pandemics comes in the form of technology, both medical and otherwise. Technology allows us to collect and store data, keep critically ill individuals alive, and communicate with experts and frontline workers anywhere in the world. One key advantage we have right now over the pandemics of the past is our access to technology and the ability to utilise it in a way that can save human lives. The following technology is essential during a modern pandemic:
The Internet: so we can communicate with one another, share data, crowdsource analytics, and generally provide a united human front against the infection.
Medical devices: so we can treat the people sickened by the disease and in many cases prolong or save their lives when without such technology this would have been impossible.
Screening devices: such as thermal imaging cameras and infrared thermometers to help identify individuals in crowds with a high body temperature both during the pandemic and afterwards during the gradual return to normal life.
Even our humble smartphones can be used to track local virus clusters and to help us avoid infection -- talk about living in a modern age!
Overall, the best ways we've come across to tackle pandemics combine all of the elements above (science/medicine, hygiene, data, technology) as part of a unified societal front against infectious diseases. Even with the best tools in the world we may struggle to contain a pandemic if we do not work together, make individual sacrifices, and combine our strengths as people to take on the spread of the infection. Let's work with one another to get this outbreak under control.
Please visit Australia.gov.au for official government information on the current COVID-19 outbreak and if you'd like to know more about the use of screening devices then please speak to the Ava Safe team.