Disease Control

David A Musick (davidmusick@juno.com)
Sat, 27 Dec 1997 16:03:48 -0500

One of the greatest problems facing Humanity is the spread of infectious
diseases. This has always been a problem, and it has the potential to be
quite devastating in the present and future as people pack more tightly
together in cities and as single individuals come into close proximity
with more and more other people every day. If one person has an
infectious disease, they can easily expose a hundred other people, who go
on to expose others to the disease. Most of these diseases are fairly
minor, like the common cold, strep throat, etc, but some are quite
deadly, like Ebola. These diseases have the potential to interfere
greatly with the productivity of humans at best and to destroy large
numbers of people at worst.

What if humans developed a procedure which could detect most or all known
infectious diseases in a human that was fairly fast (< 2 hours) and
fairly inexpensive (< US $100)? Is such a procedure possible? What
would be the consequences of its availability?

One obvious consequence is that when humans traveled to different
countries, Customs, while ensuring the humans are not smuggling anything
illegal into their country, will also make sure they are not smuggling in
any infectious diseases.

Another likely consequence is that governments may require their citizens
to be screened for disease periodically. How often would depend mostly
on the cost of the procedure, since disease control would be more
effective if people were screened more often, although there would be a
point at which more frequent screenings would not be any more effective.
Some may consider the diseases they harbor a matter of privacy and decry
the governments' actions, while others (I believe the majority) will
consider it a public safety issue and believe that no one has the right
to (knowingly or unknowingly) infect others with deadly or debilitating

Then there is the question of what to do with people who have been found
to have a highly infectious, deadly disease, or how to deal with people
who have an infectious disease, such as the common cold, whose symptoms
are not deadly but are very unpleasant and prevent one from being able to
work and earn money for a period of time. Should people with these
diseases be allowed to leave their houses? Should they be confined in
hospitals? By infecting others, they are imposing a real financial cost
on them, and it could be argued successfully that sick people are not
legally entitled to associate with others who don't choose to associate
with them, until they are rid of the infectious disease. Although,
enforcing this would be difficult.

Disease control is certainly an extropic goal. What are some good ideas
for achieving this goal?

David Musick (DavidMusick@juno.com)

- Continual improvement is the highest good.