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Are We Ready For The Next Plague?

National Museum of Health and Medicine
Creative Commons

The flu virus "Clade X"  is spreading rapidly around the world through respiratory droplets.  It was first detected in Germany and Venezuela but it has made students sick at a liberal arts college in Massachusetts. Officials are reporting the virus was created in a Swiss lab and deliberately unleashed by a terrorist group intending to sabotage the National Institutes of Health.

Don't panic yet. This is an intricate simulation that John Hopkins  Center for Health Security runs with government leaders to talk about the difficult ethical questions that will arise in the event of a true pandemic threat. 

The CDC says another pandemic is coming. There's a chance that President Trump will be confronted with a pandemic just as the two presidents before him. Yet, he has cut funding for pandemic preparedness that has helped curb prior deadly global outbreaks. He has shunned or rid his administration of scientific advisors. 

By the end of the Johns Hopkins simulation, 150 million people died globally. It doesn't have to end this way but the threat won't go away simply because we choose to ignore it. 


  • Ed Yong - Science writer for The Atlantic and is the author of I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life. (@edyong209)
  • Eric Toner - Senior Scholar with the John Hopkins Center for Health Security and Senior Scientist for John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Environmental Health and Engineering. (@JHSPH_CHS)
  • Laura Spinney - Science journalist and the author of most recently, Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed The World. (@lfspinney)

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show.