the sociology of infections and infection control: the basics


The emergence of the corona virus draws attention to the very interesting topic of the sociology of infections and infection control.  When I teach sociology of health, I often use infectious disease as way to think about how social structure affects health. Some basic points:

  1. Transportation = Infections. A very simple link between social structure and infection is that many contagions are transmitted via social contacts. This is why cities, and transportation hubs specifically, are crucial for the spread of disease.
  2. Public resources. The ability of a government to spot infections, track them, and then act varies from nation to nation. Already, we’ve seen how some countries cracked down fast while others languished. Critics have already claimed that the Trump administration has been slow to distribute testing kits. If true, this would have serious negative consequences.
  3. Demography. Every contagion affects some demographics more than others. Right now, corona virus has a high mortality rate – much higher than influenza – among the elderly. For young people, the virus appears to be essentially non-lethal.
  4. Culture. People’s beliefs about who can get infected can influence how they interact. Already, some Asians are claiming they are treated poorly because people think all Asians are vectors for the virus.
  5. Wealth is good. Wealthier nations tend to have better health and more resources. For example, a few years ago, while Sierra Leone was devastated by ebola, neighboring Nigeria, a bigger more prosperous nation, was very effective in containing the bacteria. Ebola is easy to prevent – as long as you are meticulous in making sure that all healthcare providers have adequate protection and you have places to quarantine people. During our current crisis, wealthier countries can more easily stop economic production and have services where people can obtains goods and services without getting into contact with others (e.g., food delivery, Amazon prime). And of course, more wealth means it is easier to muster up resources on short notice for the sick.

So stay home and be careful out there.



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Written by fabiorojas

March 11, 2020 at 12:33 am

Posted in uncategorized

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