Something I read got me thinking about this. Assume absolute lockdown and perfect human behavior. We’d definitely put a dent in COVID, for sure, but what other nasty communicable diseases would go extinct during this period?
What is total lockdown? As some people need assistance, some people also need devices to live that may fail/need repair to keep them alive, some people need power to power that equipment which has to be maintained at a power plant, some people will have ruptured appendix and need immediate surgery, which again requires electricity. So unless we are willing to accept such losses there won’t be a total lockdown. Perhaps for some diseases the lesser ‘evil’ would be the lockdown that shuts down everything, and throw the ill and infirm to the wolves over letting the disease spread to do its deadly work.
So again what type of total lockdown are you referring to absolute or just really strict?
The only other thing I can think of would probably be if this hypothetical lockdown were during cold/flu season, maybe it would put a dent in the cold or the flu? I can’t think of any other disease off the top of my head right now, and I’m pretty sure a 2-week lockdown won’t completely eradicate any disease.
If the total lockdown meant that water and sewage treatment plants went unmanned, there could be a whole range of interesting water-borne pathogens on the loose again. Diseases like dysentery, typhoid fever and cholera would get a new lease on life, and lesser plagues like cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis could spread without proper water treatment.
So the only diseases this can eradicate are short-lived infectious diseases that only infect humans. I’m not sure what all might be on that list, but it’s going to be pretty short. Some of the hundreds of varieties of the common cold, probably, and that’s about it?
My semi-educated (I had infectious disease, epidemiology, and public health training, but decades ago) shoot from the hip answer is that it wouldn’t eliminate a single disease. Colds, etc often have incubation/asymptomatic periods of up to two weeks anyway.
Even the procedures taken for covid (a semi-lockdown and increased usage of masks and hand-washing that only 60% of people complied with) led to an immense reduction in the impact of seasonal flu last winter, from 22,000 deaths in the prior year to 700 in 2020.
I think that a true lockdown to burn out two-week diseases may be realistic in the future. It has to account for the fact that you can’t stop trash collection, the maintenance of water, power, and sewer networks, or the staffing of 911 services and hospitals. And there are some environments such as prison where “lockdown” isn’t going to mean “keeping away from large numbers of other people.” So not everyone could lock down in an ideal way.
The idea that the necessary steps would be taken to, e.g., make sure everybody has a two week supply of food and other essentials, and that people working in the above industries could be provided with something like full respirators and hazmat suits, seemed extreme in March 2020. Of course, knowing what we do now, even if it cost on the order of a trillion dollars to get it done it would have saved money on the economic impact of covid alone, in addition to all the lives saved.
I would hope that there’s some serious discussion going on about the logistics of this kind of plan for the next covid-type outbreak.
You can get much better results, practically speaking, if you allow for some sort of testing. Ideally, a test that works even on asymptomatic infected people, but even just waiting for symptoms to show up is a test of a sort.
Like, imagine if it were practical to test everyone in the population, every day. And all of those folks who tested positive went into isolation, until they stopped testing positive. Even with a test that’s only, say, 90% accurate (in both directions), that would cause the disease’s R value to plummet, and it wouldn’t take all that long for it to fade away to nothing. Longer than two weeks, to be sure, but since you wouldn’t need total lockdown, longer than two weeks would be possible.
The two week COVID lockdown is about identifying and isolating those that have it rather than the time needed to burn it out. So the same idea might work with other diseases. Any infectious disease with an incubation period less than 2 weeks that becomes symptomatic allowing detection and subsequent isolation for treatment (even it that takes vastly longer) might be captured. The problem is the asymptomatic carriers. Even a 2 week lockdown doesn’t capture them for COVID. Diseases with animal reservoirs or vectors are no use.
One might try to avoid the issue with becoming symptomatic if a suitable test is available that produces a reliable enough result. But on a worldwide scale the false negative rate would have to be basically nil.
So, perhaps, the mix of even a very small number of asymptomatic infections and never perfect testing means that given a few billion people to cover, unless the number of people expected to be infected at any given time is small enough, the answer may still be “none.”
Lock-down doesn’t mean every single person on the planet stays home. Clearly it is possible, if inconvenient and expensive to keep essential elements of the infrastructure operating. Even it that means precise tracking and universal PPE. Clearly that isn’t possible in the current world. Even in the most wealthy countries it would be a very tall ask. In the poorer, not much chance. But for the purposes of the OP, we can assume.
Probably mumps and measles, although I’d give 5 - 6 weeks of quarantine for those to be on the safe side, to also account for their incubation period and any post-symptomatic transmission.
The polio virus is another one that only has a human reservoir, but I’d exclude it from the list because, according to Wikipedia:
I saw this question asked on some medical show and the answer was, that with just the lockdown…none.
The problem is that immunocompromised people can spend a long time battling an infection such that they can still be infectious after 2 weeks; indeed for an indefinite period.
However with lockdown + test and trace as has successfully been used against covid in some countries, we’d have common colds and flus (at least until they jump the species barrier again), and measles eradicated, off the top of my head.
What about STD’s?
A lockdown might reduce the amount of transmission during the lockdown, since only the immediate family locked down with you could be infected. But it wouldn’t eradicate them – people can live for long periods, like decades, with these diseases, and infectious all that time. Pre-penicillin, that was pretty common.
In a very literal sense, there can never be a total lockdown. But with a couple months’ advance notice, many of the issues you list could be significantly mitigated.
Obviously, for any disease that remains infectious for years, a two-week lockdown would accomplish basically nothing. So those diseases are certainly outside of the set that the OP is asking about. The question isn’t whether there are any diseases outside of that set, since we already know that there are plenty, but whether there are any inside of it.
Randall Monroe of XKCD fame discussed this specifically with regard to colds in his book “What if?”. Unfortunately it was exclusive to the book, and wasn’t included as one of this online columns so I don’t have a link. He posits that it wouldn’t even work for the common cold since there are some immune suppressed people who can carry a cold virus for months. He also points to references suggesting that people who aren’t exposed to cold viruses as children often have more immune disorders as adults, so eradicating them may not be a good idea.