Pile of envelopes with overdue utility bills on the floor.

The Unfurling Crisis of Unfunded Isolation, Testing, and Treatment of Infectious Disease in the US

By Steven W. Thrasher

For many politicians in the United States, the summer of 2022 was a time of trying not to think about the coronavirus pandemic—though, if they were concerned about the risk that they, their neighbors, and their constituents were facing, they should have been paying very close attention. By August, there were about 500 to 600 COVID deaths a day, accounting for more than a “9/11’s worth” every week, a level of death twice what it had been in the summer of 2021.

But for gay men in the United States, the summer of 2022 was a time of worrying about a whole new viral epidemic: monkeypox. The variant of the MPX orthopoxvirus circulating globally in 2022 has behaved very differently than it had in previous outbreak, acting as a sexually transmitted infection and moving almost exclusively through the bodies of gay men.

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Medical staff work in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for COVID-19 patients in University Hospital of Liege in Belgium on May 5th, 2020.

The Legality of Pandemic Detection and Prevention Technology

*This article is adapted from a longer paper published in the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform. To access the original paper, please click here.

By April Xiaoyi Xu  

A test-and-isolate system for detecting and monitoring new pathogens could avert future pandemics, but may face legal challenges in implementation.

The test-and-isolate model is described in a 2020 Scientific American article by biochemist David Ecker. Ecker recommends strategically placing modern, high-speed metagenomic sequencing technology in urban hospitals across the United States to flag previously-unknown pathogens before the infectious agents have the opportunity to spread widely and potentially start a new pandemic.

Under this model, during a time period without any apparent pandemics, the 200 biggest metropolitan hospitals in the U.S. would automatically run diagnostic tests up-front for novel causative agents among patients who visit the emergency room with severe respiratory symptoms that are possibly infectious. If such a system detects a sufficiently serious pathogen, public health agencies will send out diagnostic tests to all residents in the affected geographical area(s) within weeks and isolate those who test positive. This system also will be integrated with contact tracing and more standard outbreak response.

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