Closing the border in extreme pandemics worthwhile for island nations

June 26, 2017

It may sometimes make sense for island nations like New Zealand to temporarily close their borders in extreme pandemic situations, a new study by Wellington researchers suggests.

The study of and benefits of complete border closure in New Zealand in response to new pandemic threats has just been published in the international journal PLoS ONE.

One of the authors Professor Nick Wilson from the University of Otago, Wellington, says the study found that despite the costs/disruptions caused to tourism and even trade, there could be significant overall societal benefits to border closure in certain severe pandemic scenarios.

"With increasing risks of new pandemics due to the growing density of human populations and various socio-economic, environmental and ecological factors, there is a need to look at different scenarios for better pandemic planning," says Professor Wilson.

The researchers note that although for most countries border closures to prevent pandemic spread are thought to have little benefit, the situation is different for island nations where border closure may be viable.

The study analysed data from past influenza pandemics and looked at healthcare costs, valuation of life, lost tourism revenue and even lost trade. It also considered the option of trade still occurring without cargo ship crews ever having to leave their vessel.

Study co-author Professor Michael Baker, also from University of Otago, Wellington says: "Indeed, the options for New Zealand will improve in this regard if current international work on drone cargo ships with minimal or no crew becomes a reality."

"Other technological advances in such areas as early outbreak detection and communication will also support the kind of measures we are discussing here," says Professor Baker.

The authors argue that this new study shows that island countries like New Zealand need more detailed studies of the costs and benefits of border closure. There is also a need for updated plans and the legal capacity for the Prime Minister and Cabinet to order the borders closed in under one day of deliberations.

"It will be a very hard call – but in the case of some severe pandemics it could save thousands of lives and huge costs from illness if closure is rapidly achieved" says Professor Wilson.

More details on this work can be found in this blog.

Explore further: Targeted school closure policies may help the fight against pandemic influenza

More information: Matt Boyd et al. Protecting an island nation from extreme pandemic threats: Proof-of-concept around border closure as an intervention, PLOS ONE (2017). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0178732

Related Stories

Targeted school closure policies may help the fight against pandemic influenza

January 21, 2016
Targeted school closure policies may help mitigating the spread of pandemic influenza, while entailing lower social costs than more traditional policies, such as nationwide school closure. This emerges from a modeling study ...

Research finds flu is a major killer in New Zealand with Maori, Pasifika and low-income earners most vulnerable

June 9, 2017
New research from the University of Otago, Wellington, shows that influenza kills about 500 New Zealanders each year, and the risk of premature death is much higher for Māori, Pasifika, men and those living in relative poverty.

The number of new flu viruses is increasing, and could lead to a pandemic

April 7, 2017
Influenza has affected humans for over 6,000 years, causing pandemics at regular intervals. During the 1918 Spanish flu, it was thought to be a bacteria, until an American physician Richard Shope identified the virus in 1931.

HPV vaccination for school boys not yet cost-effective

July 14, 2014
HPV vaccination of New Zealand school boys is not yet a value-for-money option, according to a study just published by the University of Otago, Wellington.

Scientists 'must not become complacent' when assessing pandemic threat from flu viruses

October 15, 2014
As our ability to assess the pandemic risk from strains of influenza virus increases with the latest scientific developments, we must not allow ourselves to become complacent that the most substantial threats have been identified, ...

Recommended for you

Newly discovered viral marker could help predict flu severity in infected patients

October 20, 2017
Flu viruses contain defective genetic material that may activate the immune system in infected patients, and new research published in PLOS Pathogens suggests that lower levels of these molecules could increase flu severity.

H7N9 influenza is both lethal and transmissible in animal model for flu

October 19, 2017
In 2013, an influenza virus that had never before been detected began circulating among poultry in China. It caused several waves of human infection and in late 2016, the number of people to become sick from the H7N9 virus ...

Flu simulations suggest pandemics more likely in spring, early summer

October 19, 2017
New statistical simulations suggest that Northern Hemisphere flu pandemics are most likely to emerge in late spring or early summer at the tail end of the normal flu season, according to a new study published in PLOS Computational ...

New insights into herpes virus could inform vaccine development

October 18, 2017
A team of scientists has discovered new insights into the mechanisms of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, as well as two antibodies that block the virus' entry into cells. The findings, published in Proceedings of the National ...

Pair of discoveries illuminate new paths to flu and anthrax treatments

October 17, 2017
Two recent studies led by biologists at the University of California San Diego have set the research groundwork for new avenues to treat influenza and anthrax poisoning.

Portable 3-D scanner assesses patients with elephantiasis

October 17, 2017
An estimated 120 million people worldwide are infected with lymphatic filariasis, a parasitic, mosquito-borne disease that can cause major swelling and deformity of the legs, a condition known as elephantiasis. Health-care ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.