In 2018, I published an article with public health expert Vin Gupta sounding the alarm about the failure to prepare adequately for emerging infectious diseases. We were hardly the only ones. Our article, “The Next Pandemic Will Be Arriving Shortly,” joined many national security and public health experts in using the 100th anniversary of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed 50 million people, to focus attention on the national security imperative that is pandemic disease. From my perspective as the former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to President Obama, the role through which I helped lead the successful response to Ebola in 2014, I believed it was necessary to highlight the need to treat pandemic disease with the same urgency that the United States applies to other transnational threats.
Normally, op-ed authors can disavow as sensational and inaccurate the titles given to their articles by headline writers. That turned out not to be the case for us. Although not yet a pandemic, a year and a half after we first wrote, the novel coronavirus (known as 2019-nCoV) is now surging out of China. Originating in the city of Wuhan, China’s seventh-largest city with a population of 11 million, the virus—likely transferred from an infected bat—has now caused more than 31,000 people to become sick and 638 deaths, as of Feb. 7. It has also spread to two dozen countries, with 11 cases in the United States. Diseases don’t respect borders, and one of the country’s foremost experts has said the coronavirus will almost certainly become a pandemic.
Pandemic disease poses one of the greatest threats to global stability and security. In responding to the coronavirus, the U.S. should apply lessons learned from past transnational threats—but, unfortunately, in important respects, the federal government is moving in the wrong direction. That’s bad for the response to the coronavirus today and even worse for the nation’s readiness for the global health security threats that are coming.
Read more at LAWFARE