New public health measures

Could new measures substantially improve public health?

What would be the effect if, say, 90% of the country wore filter masks for one week, and concentrated on washing hands?

Infection is a chain, one individual infects one or more others, and an infection gets passed on. That is how disease persists–for most infectious agents, not in one person for months on end, but passed serially every few months as an individual gets infected, and over a few weeks mounts an immune response and fights it off.

An infectious agent requires a basic reproduction factor, an R0, of more than one. If R0 > 1, an infection is growing more common, if R0 < 1, an infection is disappearing. For more diseases, for infection to persist it must spread.

Currently there are constant but weak efforts to reduce the spread of infection–encouraging the sick to stay home and hand washing. Vaccines for influenza. But what if a serious effort was made? A big effort could not be sustained, at least not in the US culture.

But what would be the effect of a large, short effort? If infection transmission can be stomped down for a short period, but long enough to break the chain of infection, it might have a large effect on public health. I wonder if this has been modeled?

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