The Doctor Who Fought Smallpox Calls Trump’s Response “The Most Irresponsible Act In My Lifetime”
In 2006, Larry Brilliant asked the world to help him stop the next pandemic. Unfortunately, the call fell on deaf ears. During his Ted Talk, the epidemiologist revealed that the World Health Organization stages the progress of a pandemic. Back in 2006, we were at stage three.
Brilliant is responsible for fighting the flu, polio, and smallpox and in 2006 he warned us what would happen if we got to stage four.
“This will not be like [Hurricane] Katrina. The world as we know it will stop. There’ll be no airplanes flying. Would you get in an airplane with 250 people you didn’t know, coughing and sneezing, when you knew that some of them might carry a disease that could kill you, for which you had no antivirals or vaccine?”
His words from 2006 seem eerie today.
In a recent interview with Wired, Brilliant, now Chairman of the Board of Ending Pandemics revealed some insight about how we got here and when we might find normalcy.
How We Failed At “Early Detention, Early Response”
In his TED Talk, Brilliant emphasized that the reason smallpox was eradicated was due to “early detection, early response.” So how are we doing in that regard? Not well, Brilliant told Wired.
“The whole epidemiological community has been warning everybody for the past 10 or 15 years that we were going to have a pandemic like this. It was simply when.”
“It’s really hard to get people to listen. I mean, Trump pushed out the admiral on the National Security Council, who was the only person at that level who’s responsible for pandemic defense. With him went his entire downline of employees and staff and relationships. And then Trump removed the [early warning] funding for countries around the world.”
When asked if we’ve missed the window, Brilliant says testing is still the most important…
When asked if social distancing would truly help with the spread of Covid-19, Brilliant told Wired, “Yes, this is very good advice. But did we get good advice from the president of the United States for the first 12 weeks? No. All we got were lies. Saying it’s fake, by saying this is a Democratic hoax. There are still people today who believe that, to their detriment.”
“Speaking as a public health person, this is the most irresponsible act of an elected official that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime. But what you’re hearing now [to self-isolate, close schools, cancel events] is right. Is it going to protect us completely? Is it going to make the world safe forever? No. It’s a great thing because we want to spread out the disease over time.”
Slowing Down The Virus
Brilliant warned that many people will get the virus, but that the call for social distancing is to “flatten the curve.”
“We’re not going to decrease the total number of cases,” he warned. “We’re going to postpone many cases until we get a vaccine.”
Brilliant added that three things need to happen in order for life to look normal again.
- “We figure out whether the distribution of this virus looks like an iceberg, which is one-seventh above the water, or a pyramid, where we see everything. If we’re only seeing right now one-seventh of the actual disease because we’re not testing enough, and we’re just blind to it, then we’re in a world of hurt.”
- “We have a treatment that works, a vaccine or antiviral.”
- “Maybe most important, we begin to see large numbers of people—in particular nurses, home health care providers, doctors, policemen, firemen, and teachers who have had the disease—are immune, and we have tested them to know that they are not infectious any longer. And we have a system that identifies them, either a concert wristband or a card with their photograph and some kind of a stamp on it.”
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