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Don’t Close the Border May 3, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts.

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.

There are various complex studies that analyze the effectiveness of border closings, but Hilzoy had a good intuitively clear explanation of why the effectiveness of border crossings would be limited.

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.



1. Ian Duckles - May 4, 2009

“You would expect politicians to weigh these factors before they run their mouths.”

Unfortunately, I don’t think many politicians have much understanding of epidemiology. They see a red meat issue like scapegoating immigrants and they just pile on assuming (if they even know what they are talking about) that their constituents are too stupid of uninformed to even notice the nonsense.

2. Paul Moloney - May 5, 2009

And, it doesn’t even look as if the immigrants brought this economic crisis upon us.

3. Blake Harwell - May 14, 2009

The whole Swine flu “Epidemic” is the same exact story with the Y2K Virus scare at the turn of the millennium. Millions of people went crazy in the latter part of 1999 because the media told them that the “Y2K” Virus was coming because computers wouldn’t be able to understand the change into a new millennium, which would cause catastrophic damage to our entire society that is completely reliant on computers. So people took that and stocked up for the second coming on canned food and water. Accross the board billions of dollars were spent for nothing, and the only thing that happened was the date changed from 12/31/09 and the Dick Clark Rockin New Years Party kept on going. All of this is caused from the media taking something very small and blowing it out of proportion.
Now in 2009 the same exact thing has happened. 2000 people ion Mexico city that has over 10 million people population caught the flu and the media blew this story completely out of proportion. This has caused billions of dollars lost to Mexican Tourism which is a major money maker, and over a billion dollars here in the U.S to prevent a flu when every year 35,000 people die of the Flu and the Media doesn’t even blink twice about that issue.
In the end it shows me to take what theyre saying always with a grain of salt.

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