Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Speed of Pandemic Spread

We are afraid that modern air travel and so on makes us more vulnerable to pandemics, but according to the data presented here, the 1918 flu spread faster than Covid 19, and the 1889 flu pandemic was only slightly slower:

If spread depends heavily on the modern ‘age of mobility’, the spread of recent pandemics should be supercharged relative to older pandemics with similarly infectious pathogens. But there’s nothing like that in the data. Across the four past pandemics we study, from 1889 to 2009, the time it took for the pathogen to reach the median person on earth only varied by *six weeks*.

….We separately show, for each of the four past pandemics, that the time-of-arrival has no negative relationship with mortality. Staving it off a bit longer did not save lives. Action behind the border did; inaction did not.

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