Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hong Kong Quarantines: No proof they were effective

Once again, our friends at the Wall Street Journal are a bit confused by the H1N1 outbreak, and public health principles in general.  

In a story on the Hong Kong quarantines today entitled Flu Lockdown Spurs Quarantine Debate, Peter Stein gets it wrong when it comes to the evidence for/against the effectiveness of the quarantine measures, saying:

"No new cases of the A/H1N1 virus, also known as human swine flu, have emerged in Hong Kong since officials ordered nearly 300 people quarantined at the Metropark Hotel Friday, apparently vindicating the policy."

He is right in noting that no new cases of the virus occurred... but he neglects to mention the fact that this means none occurred in the people who were quarantined, either.  

That means is that none of these people who were locked away from their lives for days on end could have transmitted the virus to anyone.

The lack of new cases that Mr. Stein puts forth as evidence of the quarantine's apparent effectiveness is exactly the same thing that would have happened had there been no quarantine at all.

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