When Worlds Collide #69: Public Trust in Times of Global Pandemics

When Worlds Collide, by Nalaka Gunawardene

Text of my ‘When Worlds Collide’ column published in Ceylon Today Sunday broadsheet newspaper on 2 June 2013

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How should we respond to a rapidly spreading infectious disease like a particularly virulent form of influenza? What precautions are essential to safeguard ourselves? When do preventive actions go beyond the reasonable to disrupt social and economic systems? How to avoid run-away panic?

There are no easy answers, and we can only learn from experience. As the prospect of new influenza outbreaks looms on the horizon, some media discussions have recalled what happened with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) a decade ago.

Public health professionals define a pandemic as “an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people”.

Some pandemics, like HIV/AIDS, build up slowly over time. Others, like various types of flu, spread much faster. SARS was a good…

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