Don’t Close the Border May 3, 2009Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts.
Tags: swine flu and border security
Picking up on Nina’s post over the weekend about swine flu hype (and hysteria), many people, including various politicians, are calling for closing the border with Mexico in order to prevent the flu from spreading.
Given the amount of commerce and travel between Mexico and the U.S., the economic cost of shutting down travel and trade between the two countries would be enormous.
Moreover, health authorities have concluded that such measures will be ineffective.
One way to think of it is this: once people are in your country, they will start infecting people, and if the average number of people that each person infects is over 1, the number of infected people will begin to increase exponentially until enough people are resistant to the disease, or dead. Your border control efforts, regrettably, will probably not increase exponentially. If the average number of people that each person infects is in the normal range for the flu — 1.5-4 — and the disease has a short incubation period, which the flu does, this means that in fairly short order, the number of people infected within your country will begin to swamp the number of people you’re keeping out.
The swine flu is already here, closing the border would take time, and the border is porous as well—no closure would be even close to 100% effective.
And because a person is contagious at least 1 day before symptoms appear, there is no way to screen people at the border who might be sick.
In short, it would be a policy with very little benefit and enormous cost. You would expect politicians to weigh these factors before they run their mouths.