Diseases don’t know borders. That maxim is often invoked to remind countries of their responsibility to deal with infectious disease outbreaks—to prevent, respond and contain. Sovereignty won’t protect an economy or a health system from a novel infectious outbreak. The language and the scenarios that are commonly used—the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak is a popular one—seek to play, as Stefan Elbe says, the ‘security card’. Scare politicians, scare their constituents, and hopefully they’ll listen.

The idea that infectious diseases are a security problem hasn’t escaped controversy—the HIV/AIDS awareness campaign is a good example. In 2000, the spread of the disease via peacekeepers secured the attention of the strongest security institution in the world and led to the first UN Security Council resolution on an infectious disease (resolution 1308). The entry point was maintaining international peace and security, and protecting the resources of troop-contributing countries—their soldiers—seemed the least controversial approach.

Please click here to read the full “Do diseases know gender?” article at The Strategist, written by Griffith Asia Institute member, Associate Professor Sara E Davies.