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Members of a medical team monitor simulated patients infected with Ebola. Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

The next global plague is coming, Ed Yong writes in the Atlantic, and the U.S. is "disturbingly vulnerable."

The big picture: The total number of outbreaks every 10 years "has more than tripled since the 1980s," Yong says. Bill Gates told Yong that if there was a severe flu pandemic, more than 33 million people could be killed across the world in 250 days.

"Boy, do we not have our act together."
— Bill Gates
The possibilities
  • With 7.6 billion people in the world, and more than half of them living in cities, the chance for an epidemic to spread is increasingly high.
  • Yong writes: "In these dense throngs, pathogens can more easily spread and more quickly evolve resistance to drugs."
The concerns

Treating a plague is expensive: Per Yong, treating three Ebola patients in the U.S. in 2014 cost more than $1 million.

  • A severe flu pandemic would cost an estimated $683 billion, and "global output would fall by almost 5 percent—totaling some $4 trillion."

It takes time, which people don't always have: In 2009, it took four months before vaccines could begin to be rolled out to treat the new pandemic strain of the flu.

  • "By then the disaster was already near its peak. Those doses prevented no more than 500 deaths...Some 12,500 Americans died," Yong writes.

It requires a coordinated federal response, which Yong says "is harder than one might think."

  • In 2016, when President Obama asked Congress for $1.9 billion to fight the Zika virus, "Congress devolved into partisan squabbling," and it took more than seven months to come up with the money ($1.1 billion).
The optimism
  • The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations was created last year, and governments and nonprofits have already pledged $630 million. It's focusing on specific illnesses, and pushing towards testing vaccines and stockpiling them.
  • The coalition is also working towards "platform technologies" that would be able to create a vaccine for any kind of virus within 16 weeks of its discovery, Yong writes.
The bottom line

Preparing and confronting a pandemic relies on multiple moving parts, from the doctors to the nurses, appropriate hospital isolation for infected patients, vaccine delivery, Congress appropriation, and more. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, told Yong: "It's like a chain—one weak link and the whole thing falls apart. You need no weak links."

Go deeper

Updated 13 mins ago - Politics & Policy

What abortion access would look like if Roe v. Wade is overturned

Expand chart
Data: Axios Research; Cartogram: Sara Wise and Oriana Gonzalez/Axios

Abortion would immediately become illegal in at least 12 states if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, and more would likely follow suit quickly.

Why it matters: The Mississippi case before the Supreme Court Wednesday could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.

Updated 16 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers — U.S. on the lookout for Omicron casesFDA panel backs Merck's antiviral COVID pill.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns" — Two federal judges temporarily block Biden vaccine mandates.
  3. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Pentagon denies Oklahoma National Guard request for exemption from vaccine mandate.
  4. World: Omicron variant detected in more countriesWHO advises people 60 or older to postpone travel due to Omicron — COVID-19 "radically altered mobility" globally, UN says.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will not seek re-election in 2022

Gov. Charlie Baker speaking during a press conference in November. Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), a moderate who typically ranks as one of the nation's most popular governors, and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito (R) announced Wednesday that they will not seek third terms in 2022.

Why it matters: The decision leaves the gubernatorial race wide open and will likely affect multiple down-ballot races next year. Baker was expected to be the front-runner had he joined the race.