By Alan Hall | Excerpted from the February 2015 Socionomist
Ebola is out, measles is in… at least in the US. The Disneyland measles outbreak in December 2014 captured the media’s attention, generated a massive spike in “measles” searches on Google, and sparked vaccination arguments amongst potential candidates in the 2016 presidential race.
Will measles become a serious epidemic in the US? What’s next for Ebola in West Africa?
Hall offers his perspective on the two disease trends in the February 2015 article, excerpted below.
Complacency Revived Measles, Again
…What are the chances that measles will become a serious epidemic in the US now? We should remember that with infectious disease, almost anything is possible. A sufficiently virulent pathogen can overwhelm society’s defenses at any time. For example, Asian flu erupted in 1957 and the Hong Kong flu pandemic began in 1968, times of relatively positive mood.
But what is probable? As we showed in 2009, the most serious epidemics over the past three centuries have tended to follow major trends toward negative social mood, which impel pessimistic psychology, declines in stock markets and increases in economic and social stress that reduce immunity.
Socionomic theory suggests a major measles epidemic—or any major epidemic in the US—is unlikely now. US stocks have rallied strongly for the past six years, and the DJIA is at an all-time high. Social psychology and economic conditions are far better than in 2009 when we wrote, “Financial and social stress is reaching levels that most people alive today have never experienced.” Some of that pressure is off, and just as in 2000, we observe the positive-mood complacency that led to the anti-vaccination movement and allowed the measles virus to find clusters of unvaccinated people.
The same goes for Germany, where there is a measles outbreak amid all-time highs in its stock market. If US and German stocks continue higher, we expect the current level of measles fear to lessen, and vice versa.
…What’s Next for Ebola?
Social mood remains profoundly negative in Western Africa, so the probability of Ebola resurgence remains elevated there.
Figure 3 updates the Ebola chart from the August 2014 issue, which plotted a Western African stock index against cumulative Ebola cases and deaths to show the social mood trend relative to the timing of the epidemic. This chart plots monthly case and death totals. Note that the Ebola outbreak has not formed a single peak-and-decline, such as those of the classic epidemics and financial manias we showed in Figure 5 from the June 2009 issue. Rather, the graphs of Ebola cases and deaths so far display a double top. …
In the full text of this six-page article, Hall explains why reports that declare the Ebola epidemic in West Africa is ending are premature, and he identifies when the epidemic will likely escalate again.
Want more content like this?
The Socionomist is the only monthly publication that offers you practical insights on the relationship between social mood, financial markets and cultural trends. Each issue warns you about big societal changes before they can harm you and reveals breakthrough opportunities emerging from trends in society. Become a socionomics member today and get instant access to The Socionomist.
(Socionomics Members: Log in for the full article and your complete, exclusive archive.)