Epidemic De-Quarantine Strategy

Epidemic De-Quarantine Strategy

I thought about a presentation given by a Nobel-Prize-winning scientist at The Nobel Conference XXXVII at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN in early October 2001; as a result, I wrote the following letter to the CDC in Atlanta. None of the four paths by which I attempted to deliver the letter resulted in a reply from any of the recipients or the CDC itself. Here’s the letter: ————————————————-

Date: October 25, 2001

To: The Center for Disease Control, Atlanta

From: Jeffrey M. Setterholm
Systems Engineer
8095 E. 230th St.
Lakeville, MN 55044-8287
(952) 461-3445
(my email address at the time)

Subject: Epidemic De-quarantine Strategy (EDS)

The “fitness” of tiny life forms is measured by their relative ability
to multiply in a given cultural media. In 24-hour cyclic tests,
(statistically) fitness improves when a cluster of survivors are moved
to the next media; likewise, fitness degrades when just a single copy
of the life form is moved to the next media. The prevailing
explanation of the phenomena is that DNA replication is not exact –
molecular bonding errors are said to occur at the rate of 1-in-10,000
bonds, whereas there are 13,000 bonds in a simple life form. Thus,
the chances are better than 50/50 that a tiny life form will be
genetically defective in some way.

Hence, people are not infected by exactly the same virus
in an epidemic, which helps to explain why less than half the people
who contract the disease of a typical lethal epidemic die from the

The Epidemic De-quarantine Strategy (EDS) is to try to systematically
spread versions of the virus or bacteria which were unsuccessful at
killing people who contracted the disease. When a town has the
epidemic, send a few of the people who survived radially out to
neighboring towns, but only one survivor goes to each town. Expose
people, but only a little bit, to the survivor. From the surrounding
town that fares the best in terms of reduced deaths, send survivors
out to the next circle of towns. etc.

Army training manuals say: “A bad plan is better than no plan.”
EDS is, relatively speaking, a no-brainer to implement as a last
ditch defense against an epidemic. Panic makes learning difficult;
it would help if people understood the strategy in advance of
a pressing need to employ it.

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