White Paper On Novel H1N1: Prepared for the MIT Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals

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by John M. Barry
Distinguished Scholar, Tulane University Center for Bioenvironmental Research
Member, Advisory Board, MIT Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals

Revised July 27, 2009

This paper is an historical and policy primer for one to prepare for a severe flu pandemic - which is virtually guaranteed to happen at some time in the future. The paper provides actionable knowledge, gleaned from past flu pandemics and from recent science, to reduce the chance of you and your loved ones from contracting the flu. The paper discusses both the new novel H1N1 flu virus and the more lethal H5 N1 ("bird flu") virus. In discussing the future of H1N1, the author says, "Three of the preceding four pandemics, 1889, 1918, and 1957, show clear evidence of some fairly intense but sporadic initial local outbreaks scattered around the world. The novel H1N1 virus seems thus far to be following the pattern of those three pandemics, and it seems highly likely that it will return in full flower." The author projects that a full fledged global pandemic could cut global GDP by up to 4 to 6 percent, and that companies must now prepare for supply chain disruptions, even if only the milder H1N1 becomes the prevalent flu. An individual's behavioral changes with social distancing and hygienic steps can dramatically reduce the chance of contracting the flu.