How do pandemics end?

By | 8th June 2020

In the midst of the present chaos, it is easy to forget that the world has had pandemics before and that they have come to an end. Can we learn anything from these experiences that might help us in dealing with Covid-19?

Note first that no pandemic has actually wiped out humanity. While this may seem obvious, given that our species is still around, it is important for injecting some sense of proportion into the risks represented by SARS-CoV-2. We are right to be concerned, because we are dealing with a virus that is novel to our species, but it is not an existential threat. At most, it shows that our belief in the possibility of fully controlling the natural world is a comfortable illusion….

We may get lucky – but it seems to be just as likely that we need to learn to live with this virus much as we have learned to live with influenza.

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