Case study: Pandemics

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Tier 1 Interpersonal level

The swine flu pandemic in 2009 caused 18,000 deaths around the world and led to airport and school closures, border screening, and state vaccination programmes targeted at vulnerable people.

“It is increasingly common for people to use social media such as Twitter and Facebook also in times of crisis to help others – by circulating information, organising assistance or simply giving someone a voice,” said Professor Barbara Prainsack, one of the two authors of the report. “We believe that this new expression of solidarity has not been fully explored by state authorities. In future, social media could be used more systematically during pandemics, for example, to track the spread of disease, raise awareness of public health measures, collect information, and organise assistance.

“The risk of falling seriously ill or dying from a disease such as swine flu varies considerably depending on the vulnerability and health of the person. It is therefore unreasonable to expect all people to accept the potentially high costs of containing pandemics, such as restrictions on movement, or vaccinations, on the basis of a feeling of solidarity with others – this will have to be justified in other ways.”



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