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.