Microbe Risk Management

by Bill Sweet

I was an Armor officer for the first six years of my professional career. One of the key components of the schoolhouse Army decision making process focuses on risk management. The way the Army and other large organizations think about risk is in two parts: what's the likelihood of an event happening, and what are the consequences. Creating a process of evaluating risks and determining what risks are suitable and what risks are not is at the core of leadership, particularly when people's lives are on the line.

The Guardian came out today with a fantastic visualization of a similar risk management matrix that reminded me of the Army's process, but with respect to infectious disease. On the X-axis you see the infectiousness of the disease (ability for it to reproduce, in units of likely human propagation), and the Y-axis the fatality rate. Note where Ebola stands - a 70% fatality rate combined with a propagation rate of 2.5. Really only Tuberculosis and HIV have a similar combination of fatality and pervasiveness.

The data source for the spreadsheet can be found here.

- Bill