Preventing a pandemic — Google style

The latest post in Google’s “Google at 10” series concerns epidemics.

Well, it mainly concerns eradicating infectious diseases with smallpox given as an example.

In case you’ve forgotten, smallpox was eradicated in the late 1970s (last case in 1977) through a vaccination program.  My parents received the vaccine but with the last case in Denmark in 1970 I didn’t (I was born in 1975).

It is a bit cool to think about it.  A disease was important enough to cause a global vaccination program in my parents generation, but for me there was no point; the disease had been wiped out.  I was vaccinated against TB (Calmette vaccination) but my younger sister weren’t ’cause by that time there were so few cases in Denmark that it wasn’t worth it.

We are getting pretty good at this.

Now, in the Google blog post, Dr. Larry Brilliant compares smallpox to the Black Death and bird flu.  That is a bit dramatic, I think.  Well, maybe not the bird flu — we don’t know how deadly that will be — but the Black Death was a bit more deadly.  Maybe not in the long run — smallpox has killed its share of people — but in the short run a pandemic like the Black Death (and more so the Spanish flu) is a lot more worrying.

To identify potentially emerging epidemics, Larry mentions Google’s Predict and Prevent initiative.

The post is a bit short on visions, at least compared to the earlier Google at 10 posts.

Epidemics (and pandemics) is an important issue, and something like Predict and Prevent can be important.  But what will it do in the future? What are the visions?