Experts Predicted A Coronavirus Pandemic

EXPERTS PREDICTED A CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

(CNN) In 2017, a team of experts at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security published a scenario as part of a training exercise that they believed could happen in the not-so-distant future. If experts predicted a coronavirus pandemic, or performed scenario training exercise, how should that be interpreted?

The SPARS Pandemic Scenario

The year is 2025. A few American travelers returning from Asia die of an unknown, influenza-like illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms the victims were infected with a novel coronavirus, SPARS-CoV. Nothing is known about this novel coronavirus. There is no rapid diagnostic test. There are no known treatments. And there is no vaccine.

Reading the SPARS Pandemic Scenario is like reading an account of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the scenario wasn’t an attempt to predict the future.

It’s not long before the SPARS outbreak erupts into a global pandemic. The CDC finds SPARS is transmitted through respiratory droplets and recommends that everyone practice hand hygiene and frequently disinfect surfaces.

Experts learn that SPARS has a long incubation period– 7 to 10 days– and that it can be spread by asymptomatic carriers. Pregnant women and those with underlying conditions like asthma and emphysema are at a higher risk for complications and death.

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Social distancing, isolation, narratives in experts predicted pandemic

The WHO begins to recommend social distancing and isolation of suspected cases. There is hope that an existing antiviral drug could help treat SPARS, but there have been no randomized controlled trials. The US Food and Drug Administration issues an Emergency Use Authorization for this drug to treat SPARS patients.

Soon, there is high public demand for the drug and millions of doses are dispensed from the Strategic National Stockpile. However, it soon becomes apparent that the drug can cause serious side effects.

Things become political. Republicans voice their support of the drug while Democrats express doubt. America is more connected yet more divided than ever. Rumors and misinformation regarding the virus and potential treatments circulate on social media.

The economy takes a hit as the pandemic drags on. Within a year, a potential vaccine begins expedited review. And, there are promises that tens of millions of doses will be available within a few months. But of the hundreds of millions of people living in the US, who will get the vaccine first?

Communication in the time of Covid-19

Reading the SPARS Pandemic Scenario is like reading an account of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the scenario wasn’t an attempt to predict the future.

Rather, it was meant to illustrate a broad range of serious challenges that public health communicators might face. The hope was that by working through these challenges as part of a training exercise, federal, state and local agencies would be well prepared to respond to a similar scenario in the future.

If experts predicted a coronavirus pandemic years ago, as something that can happen in the future. That future is now. But many of the public health pitfalls meant to serve as teaching tools seem to have played out before our eyes.

Myfwl/Work Life Feed has shortened the write up for our readersClick here to view the full original write up at CNN.

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