Planning For Your Pandemic: Study Ranks Highest Risk Airports As Kennedy, LAX . . . And Honolulu

We have been discussing for years how the United States and other nations continue to underfund preparations for the next pandemic. While spending billions for wars in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. has not done enough to fund medical research in anticipation of a worldwide killer that is now overdue from a historical standpoint. MIT researchers, however, have at least given citizens some help in planning for their pandemic travels. The researchers found that Kennedy and LAX are the leading risk airports. The third airport to avoid? Honolulu International. The research was published in the journal PLoS ONE.

The team found, not surprisingly, that airports will be a major cause of spreading the pandemic in the first few days of the outbreak. In looking at “early spreaders,” the team focused on factors like the expected origins of the disease and traffic patterns. While Honolulu is neither the busiest airport in the US, it “combines three important features that catalyze contagion spreading” from its geographical positioning in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and its key connection to other powerful spreader airports, such as LAX. The list put Kennedy Airport first — followed by airports in Los Angles, Honolulu, San Francisco, Newark, Chicago (O’Hare), and Washington (Dulles)

What is missing is a sense of urgency in our government. The government has an early warning system in place and emergency planning for a pandemic. However, we continue to underfund medical research to prevent known candidates for pandemic disease. Of course, in the chaos that follows such a pandemic, politicians know that few will stop to ask what might have been done for the wasted years of inaction. Hundreds of millions could die from such a pandemic. Yet we continue to treat it as relatively low in priority of research and spending — far behind the funding of foreign military campaigns.

 Source: Guardian

20 thoughts on “Planning For Your Pandemic: Study Ranks Highest Risk Airports As Kennedy, LAX . . . And Honolulu”

  1. I just watch “Contagion” last night and this article brought to mind a line by Laurence Fishburne’s character in response to a question about would someone weaponize the bird flu.

    Dr. Ellis Cheever: Someone doesn’t have to weaponize the bird flu.The birds are doing that.

    The Prof says, “However, we continue to underfund medical research to prevent known candidates for pandemic disease. ” I submit that while this is true, this is only a part of the picture. (semi-spoiler) As in the film “Contagion”, the greater risk comes from not what is known but what is unknown. As we invade biodiverse areas like jungles and rainforests in search of resources, we increase exposure to viruses that can jump species and bacteria that can have unknown pathogenic effects on humans. Prevention of known candidates like SARS and small pox is wise, but having an adequate infrastructure to do both the epidemiological studies required to trace an outbreak to its origin and the medical facilities to safely deal with novel pathogens while seeking a cure are also critically important. It is important to remember that part of the reason the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic was so deadly – killing approximately 3% of the global population – is that it was at the time a novel pathogen. Nobody knew how to deal with it because nobody had ever seen anything like it. Even today, researchers aren’t entirely sure where the virus originated. Even with preventative measures and adequate response infrastructure in place, this is a form of natural disaster we can mitigate, but we’ll likely never eliminate the threat.

  2. Don’t know what you folks are doing complaining about Dredd’s blog links.

    Dredd does the thinking that most of you are not capable of doing, digests it, regurgitates it for you to eat. Be happy small birds.

  3. The CDC has a paper that does an analysis of frequent fliers and their impact on this genesis of pandemics:

    A small proportion of air travelers make disproportionately more journeys than the rest of travelers. They also tend to interact predominantly with other frequent travelers in hotels and airport lounges. This group has the potential to accelerate global spread of infectious respiratory diseases.

    (Frequent Travelers and Rate of Spread of Epidemics). What is missing in the discussion heretofore, except that Oro Lee raised the issue of the impact of weather, and its contribution to potential pandemic.

    That would raise the issue of location of the genesis of the disease, and then that location’s proximity to these airports.

    Surely an airport’s proximity to a disease outbreak would raise its position on a list of airports most likely to have infected air travellers, and therefore to be avoided.

  4. I can’t post all the source here, as HTML links are limited to two.

    There are four HTML source links in my post, which link to NYT, Think Progress, NASA, and Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences.

  5. Frankly 1, July 25, 2012 at 9:40 am

    let me guess – that link in your post goes to a story on your blog as opposed to a source for the information
    ================================
    You have my permission to guess.

    You are utterly wrong in your guess BTW.

    You could just shut up, mind your own business, be much more accurate, and less embarrassing to yourself and others.

  6. “Yet we continue to treat it as relatively low in priority of research and spending — far behind the funding of foreign military campaigns. ”

    Everything is a low priority except funding of foreign military campaigns.

  7. let me guess – that link in your post goes to a story on your blog as opposed to a source for the information

  8. Oro Lee 1, July 25, 2012 at 8:26 am

    If climate change is real, btw see http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/greenland-melt.html, then the ensuing lack of food and potable water and the resultant mass migrations ensure several pandemics, some caused by any of several usual suspects
    —————————————–
    There are several scientists who believe that upset weather patterns can contribute to or cause pandemics.

    There is also an impact on water and oil availability, which can both have health impacts so as to help spread pandemics.

    JT has hit on a very timely subject.

  9. AY – one of us needs morning coffee judging from your post 8-{D

    But don’t worry, nothing will be done because it costs money & we all know that any money the government spends – except on DoD – is theft. If only there were some way to insure that then next plague only took the people who are aiding and abetting its eventual spread. But, the innocent will suffer too.

  10. Now if the drug manufacturer could just generally I’d what it will be they’d get a Patten and produce the next illness…… Then again if W. Was still in charge….. Just shut the airports down….. How does it benefit haliburton…..

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