Germs We Share
Flu season reminds us once again that public health is a commons we all depend on
(Photo by Matt & Ashley under a Creative Commons license from flickr.com)
It’s a simple fact of medicine that our good health depends on the good health of others. You cannot seal yourself away from germs, contamination or other disease vectors.
Infection defies all attempts at enclosure. Borders between nations and divisions between economic classes are meaningless in the face of disease. No amount of money or privatization can assure your safety. We are all connected to each other through the viruses and bacteria we exchange.
This is more true than ever in an age when a problem like Swine Flu, H1N1, SARS, AIDS and the flu that struck millions this winter can erupt suddenly into an global pandemic. Public health threats are not a historical footnote from the days when raw sewage poured into our water supply. Indeed, it was an understanding of the commons that wiped out many diseases through the creation of public sewers and water filtration systems.. The same approach is necessary today to prevent deadly new outbreaks. This means studying all our social and environmental interconnections, and coming up with plans to protect the weak and vulnerable of the world, which in turn protects us all.
Updated from OTC’s All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons. You can download the first chapter for free here.