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What Do You Do When You Can't Be Right?

Right now we’re at a pivotal point with the Swine Flu. It can go either way. So we’re preparing and taking as many precautions as we can as a world population. Mexico is virtually shutdown for 10 days. The rest of the world is on high alert. Although travel, especially air travel, hasn’t yet been restricted, it’s strongly advised against unless absolutely necessary. Funds have been released to help fight the battle. In other words things are moving.

But no matter what happens, once everything is said and done, people will complain. If the virus does become a pandemic and lots of people die we’ll complain that not enough was done. That we should have acted earlier, and stronger. That we should have stopped all travel right away. That we should have had quarantines setup right away. That we should have [fill in the blank].

However if the virus is stopped by our current actions, we’ll never know how bad it could’ve gotten. So people will complain that we over-reacted. That we overdid it. That it was all hype and fear. That the media oversold the story. And the next time we’ll be even less likely to do anything because nothing happened last time. For example, we’ll never know what could’ve happened in the 1976 Swine Flu outbreak. Today people still argue that the cost of the vaccine may have been too much because people died from the vaccine. But how many more would have died without the vaccine and the preventative steps taken at the time? How much more could the virus have spread and killed? Did we prevent the death of millions at the cost of hundreds or thousands? We’ll never know. All we know is that people died from the vaccine and the that outbreak never occurred. We forgot that our actions might have actually stopped a much worse scenario because we didn’t see it.

Basically, whatever the outcome, it will be wrong! If we don’t react enough a pandemic can occur and potentially millions of people can die (worse case scenario – we don’t yet really know how virulent this strain is). If we do enough and stop the spread of the virus, then people won’t believe it really was a threat after all. This is especially true if people die preventing the spread of the virus because of the vaccine.

So what would you do when there’s absolutely no way you can be right?

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  •     Jesse Smith
    · May 1st, 2009  · 11:56 pm  · Permalink

    Yes, this is pretty much exactly what happened with the Y2K problem. Lots and lots of money spent, and then when nothing dramatic went wrong a lot of people complained that the huge expense was an overreaction and a waste of resources. But I suppose there’s no way to know what could have happened had we not scrambled to mitigate the problems.

  •     Steph
    · May 7th, 2009  · 1:59 am  · Permalink

    Hi Jesse,

    I couldn’t agree more. It’s a great example. And that’s exactly the issue when selling prevention. I suspect that had we not reacted as we did, Jan 1 2000 would not have been so calm.

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