Illustrating Interventions

When I was speaking on pandemic preparedness, I decided to create an animation to explain some of the concepts. Now that I’ve discussed surge capacity and surge capability, I can explain why all of the interventions help during an outbreak and how they work together.

Surge capacity

One method I didn’t address to increase surge capacity was the idea of building new hospitals, just as China had done in about one week. This is pretty impressive if you haven’t seen it.

Look at this video as an epidemic curve. The number of cases rises and then diminishes. The area that is red are the number of people who are sick.

The black bar represents the hospital bed capacity for a defined population. Above that line, people are at risk from not being able to obtain care because hospitals are full. The surge capabilities discussed in the past post essentially end up raising that bar by increasing the number of beds.


Vaccination often comes late during an outbreak but it does help to cut off the tail of the outbreak.

Non-pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs)

The use of quarantine, respiratory hygiene, hand hygiene, and social distancing both reduces the numbers of people who are ill, but also delays when people get ill. This is why I could make a pretty strong argument that the actions by China and Italy might be very good policy to protect their populations.


During major outbreak events though, obviously none of these are sufficient to meet the need on their own. That’s why multiple interventions can reduce the number of people at risk (red at the end of the video) compared to those who would have been at risk (gray at the end of the video).

Hopefully this provides you with some sense of why we use so many different approaches when the threat of an outbreak looms over us.

And yes, I wish I could get rid of the ads at the end of each, but I assume that requires me to pay a fee. I’m already doing that with my time.

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