Watching Hollywood thrillers, you’d think the world was pretty good at protecting the public from deadly microorganisms. We like to believe that somewhere out there, there is a team ready to spring into action – equipped with the latest and best technologies.
Government agents like Jack Bauer in 24. Harvard professors like Robert Langdon in Inferno. And WHO epidemiologists like Dr. Leonora Orantes in Contagion – who even risked getting kidnapped as she pursued “Patient Zero.”
In the real world, though, the health infrastructure we have for normal times breaks down very rapidly during major infectious disease outbreaks. This is especially true in poor countries. But even in the U.S., our response to a pandemic or widespread bioterror attack would be insufficient.