AuthorTopic: Quarantine
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Since the political and religious discussion topics currently on the boards are doomed to split the community along political lines and have been done to death anyway, I thought I might try something a little more thought-provoking and less polarising.

What's your opinion on quarantine laws?

For example, is the risk of introducing exotic diseases a sufficient reason to keep foreign farm produce out of a country, or does this amount to unjustifiable protectionism? What degree of risk and how much potential damage is acceptable?

Who should be responsible for drafting quarantine regulations: the state, or industry organisations? Who should be responsible if regulation fails and a disease or exotic species gets in and causes havoc anyway? If private citizens and corporations are to be held responsible for any harm caused by products they import, what happens when the introduction of a disease or species causes far more harm than the parties responsible can compensate for?

And to what extent, if any, should the movements and activities of people with infectious diseases, or those who have recently contacted people with infectious diseases, be restricted?

[ Sunday, June 27, 2004 20:00: Message edited by: Thuryl ]
Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
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A corporation should be responsible for taking all the necessary precautions to insure that any harmful effects do not permeate the external world. If a corporation deals with exotic experiments of any kind they must do so under the highest security. Period. If there's an outbreak they are responsible for it. Responsible because it is they who were undergoing the experiments in the first place.

However, as any corporation works within a state, and an state should be aware of such experiments taking place, the state is also responsible to insure that laws exist to protect those who live in that state.

A state should have regulatory commissions that work to insure this doesn't happen, as well as laws which restrict certain experiments or make sure those which are being done are being done under the proper protections.

If an outbreak takes place, I do not think you can be protective enough, and this may lead indeed to trouble. I am not very familiar with the mad cow disease or the repercussions this had in Britain as well as Europe. To name an example of such a case.

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Posts: 604 | Registered: Sunday, June 20 2004 07:00
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You raise some good points, BSC. But most potential disease hazards have little to do with genetic experiments or dubious farming practices, and much more to do with simple traffic between countries. For example, the World Trade Organisation is currently trying to force Australia to accept imports of apples and pears which may carry exotic diseases such as fire blight. An outbreak of fire blight could cause billions of dollars' worth of damage to the Australian farming industry; if this were to happen, the company that imported the infected fruit might well be completely unable to absorb the cost to Australian farmers. And that's assuming the fruit could even be traced back to the importer at all.

There's probably not much we could have done in advance to stop mad cow disease, since nobody knew of the danger and it's not transmitted from person to person, but there are plenty of other diseases where major dilemmas in management arise. For example, China and Vietnam locked up people with suspected cases of SARS. Their actions probably helped contain the epidemic and saved lives, but is it justifiable to knowingly confine innocent people for any reason?
Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
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This is a tough subject.

Did I understand right? Is the WTO forcing Australia to import, that is to buy, the fruits which may affect with fire blight?

If that is the case, WHY? And How can they force a country to accept a product which carries such a danger? Where's this product coming that makes it so imperative to Australia to buy it and not buy it from somewhere else?

Thuryl, as to the other point in your post: the problem is partly a spin-oof of McCarthyism, in such cases paranoia may run rampant and people who have absolutely nothing to do with the problem may be caught and forced to be confined.
That shouldn't happen.

However, where do you draw the line? How do you measure the degree of suspicion you have about a probable carrier of the desease, SARS in this case, and the actual fact that the person may indeed be carrying it?

I have no answer for that. But, do you risk it? Puff. I'm going to carefully say no. Don't risk it. At least make the accommodations as comfortable as possible and treat those who are there with respect and care and have them there only as long they have to. Once tested, they can leave, and as long as the area is clean.

Going back to your example about Australia. I'm flabbergasted, if I understood right, because I cannot comprehend how an organization can force a country to buy a product which may have such a desease in it.

How often, I wonder, this happens and people like me are absolutely clueless as to its existence.

"Ph-nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn"
Posts: 604 | Registered: Sunday, June 20 2004 07:00
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I don't know much about this subject, but it seems to me that everyone's safety is more important than the temporary confort of an individual. SARS was very much overrated, I've heard, but if it were as bad as everyone thought, I'd have no problem with quarantining infected and contagious persons. It's what saved Italy during the Plague.

As for the apples and pears, there must be more behind this. Why does the WTO want Australians to take such a risk? I mean, is it just about money? Is it just that they want more apples and pears in Australia? Or is there a bigger picture, like starving fruit farmers in SE Asia whose very lives depend on Australia taking this risk? In that case, the risk itself should be studied very closely and, depending on the chances and the possible effects, either accepted or rejected.

And if I were in that company's shoes, I'd make damn sure that the WTO was willing to accept some of the cost if these forced imports caused such damage.

EDIT: Example

[ Sunday, June 27, 2004 22:15: Message edited by: Lady Davida ]

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Posts: 3351 | Registered: Saturday, April 6 2002 08:00
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The WTO's argument is basically that the risk of diseases being passed on to Australian crops is negligible and that Australia is using quarantine as an excuse to close its markets to imports. The Australian fishing industry is facing similar problems over salmon imports.

Quite frankly, as far as the spread of disease is concerned, I don't buy arguments about the risks being negligible. It only takes one careless or unscrupulous gardener somewhere in Australia to mix a blighted apple in with their compost and the whole nation could be at risk.

EDIT: Regarding SARS, I believe the compromise reached in Australia was to ban anyone with SARS-like symptoms from using international airports. Of course, SARS hardly ended up touching us, so it didn't really protect anyone and inconvenienced a lot of people who just had colds. But it's better to be safe than sorry, right?

[ Sunday, June 27, 2004 23:58: Message edited by: Thuryl ]
Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
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My general feeling -- and I am a bit in over my head here, so if I make some rather ignorant comments, please forgive me -- is that preventing the spread of disease through quarantine, when done by legitimate government organizations, is a completely reasonable endeavor. I don't really give a damn about countries being protectionist, because I suspect it will hurt their economies in the long run more than it will hurt the global economy, so if a government uses a quarantine as an excuse, that's fine with me.

And I'm usually pretty firm on civil liberties, but in this case, I'd say that if a person has a new contagious disease, and if quarantining that person might help prevent an epidemic, then it should be done. The person should be taken to a comfortable hospital for treatment and study, at the government's expense. Epidemics are one area in which it is best not to use kid gloves; they kill far too many people.

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Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
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Economically speaking, Kelandon is probably right about protectionist countries hurting themselves in the long run.
The problem is, they also hurt other countries in the short run. All mayor western countries (US, Europe, Canada, Australia) engage in this behaviour, protecting their own primary industries (agriculture, fisheries, raw materials), from the cheaper substitutes coming from developing countries. As it is forbidden by the WTO, quality restrictions on import are being levied, having the same result as import blockings.
(No, I am not an anti-globalist, I am actually an pro-globalist: the more free trade, the better)

However, there can be exceptions, but they must remain EXCEPTIONS. As soon as some contagious disease arises, nearly everything should be allowed to prevent spreading. Some recent examples in Holland have learned me that only a very harsh approach leads to the desired result.
So, as soon as there is a disease, no transport at all shuld be allowed. All holders of the disease should be destroyed (if non-human) or be put in quarantine (if human). Suspicuous products should be destroyed. Suspicious humans should be put in quarantine (but preferably not in the same location as those who have the disease for sure). Suspicious animals is more difficult, but I think destroying is best. You may kill some healthy animals, but it may prevent the suffering of many more.

As to where to put the blame, it depends. Most diseases have a natural starting point, and you cannot blame the first victim. However, any violation of, for instance, transportation restriction in and out of affected areas should be punished severely (at least 1 year of prison).

[ Monday, June 28, 2004 02:20: Message edited by: Josty ]
Posts: 21 | Registered: Monday, December 22 2003 08:00
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None of you need apologise for a lack of knowledge on the subject. My own sparse knowledge of economics and history hasn't stopped me from chiming in when I had something to say on more conventional political topics. And really, how much does any of us here know about that sort of thing anyway? At best, we can't hope to know better than professional historians and economists, and they all seem to disagree with each other.

Anyway, using restrictive quarantine policies to prevent epidemics is a nice idea in theory, but there have to be limits or we'd have to lock up everyone who comes down with the flu. Then again, even influenza epidemics can kill millions. In some ways, the problem isn't so much with the unfortunate individuals who happen to transmit infections as it is with the way our social interactions are organised, but who would be willing to change that and how would we go about doing it anyway?

If I may make a general point, it seems to me that only a naive idealist could genuinely think we should never trade freedom for security. The real question, and a far more difficult and complex one than those found in the rhetoric of ideologues on all sides, is what exchange rate is acceptable. Politicians make decisions like this every day; it's no wonder that all but the very worst ones seem indecisive.
Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00