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Concrete Biosecurity Projects (some of which could be big)

Unless you have a reason to think otherwise, those methods of transmission (except for aerosol transmission) don't seem capable of spreading a contagion rapidly enough to end civilization. This has been discussed in other comments.

Concrete Biosecurity Projects (some of which could be big)

Why do you think fomite transmission is still worth considering?

Concrete Biosecurity Projects (some of which could be big)

Yeah, there were two groups that studied how rhinovirus is transmitted. One group was from the University of Virginia and found evidence of only fomite transmission. The study you cited is theirs. The other group was from the University of Wisconsin and found evidence for only airborne transmission. The Wisconsin group "...argued that the high rate of transmission via the hands in the Virginia experiments might be attributable to intensive contact with fresh wet secretions produced by volunteers who essentially blew their nose into their hand."

Concrete Biosecurity Projects (some of which could be big)

cause maybe thousands of deaths.

Don't you mean millions of deaths?

I'm confused about the distinction between fomite and droplet transmission. 

From what I've read, fomite transmission must involve surface touching, whereas droplet transmission must involve droplets, which are expelled by coughing or sneezing, directly landing (like a bullet) in your mouth, nose, or eyes without any extra contact or touching.

These methods of transmission seem so implausible (how many people actually sneeze or cough directly in someone's face?) to be major causes of spread that it's hard to believe that no one seemed to have performed definitive experiments to test these ideas for many decades. On the other hand, even seemingly definitive experiments (like the rhinovirus study) don't seem able to shift expert opinion. In the case of rhinovirus, maybe one experient isn't enough, but then the question is why no one seems to have been interested in replicating it.

Concrete Biosecurity Projects (some of which could be big)

it's certainly not impossible for non-respiratory pathogens to achieve rapid global spread.


I can't think of a plausible, non-science fictional way in which this would not be impossible.

If you can but prefer not the mention it publically due to infohazard concerns, please send me a PM.

Concrete Biosecurity Projects (some of which could be big)

In the context of this discussion (the post is about GCBRs), it should have been clear what I meant by that term.

Also, it can be claimed that a lot of things are "pandemics" like TB and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but what is usually meant by the term is rapid, global spread (within weeks to a few months at most) of a deadly pathogen.

Concrete Biosecurity Projects (some of which could be big)

rhinovirus is probably spread primarily via formites

Until the COVID19 pandemic, nearly everyone thought that most infectious respiratory diseases were transmitted via fomites and droplets, but unfortunately, this was based on shockingly poor evidence and assumptions. The material you've seen is based on this outdated consensus.

As I pointed out before, there are mechanistic reasons to doubt that pandemics can arise from fomite transmission.

However, if I squint hard enough, I can kinda, sorta see how young children in daycare might be infected by sharing toys and sticking their fingers up their noses. But stuff like that isn't going to cause a pandemic.

In fact, the dominant (and most likely only) mode of transmission of rhinovirus is aerosols (at least in adults), not fomites. The same paper claims that fomites were unable to infect adults.

I also don't think we should necessarily overindex on viral respiratory diseases/pandemics, even though I agree they're the scariest.

Anything that's capable of causing a civilization-ending pandemic must be able to rapidly replicate in humans and spread via airborne transmission, and the only thing that can do that is viruses (and perhaps virus-like particles in the future).

The bottom line for me about fomites and surface contamination is that it's probably a non-issue, and even if there's something to it (which doesn't seem too likely), it's pretty easy to deal with without fancy tech: just wash your hands, disinfect surfaces, and wear a face covering to prevent face-touching.

Concrete Biosecurity Projects (some of which could be big)

This discussion is about preventing and mitigating pandemics that could potentially end civilization, and stuff similar to AIDS (regardless of how you want to categorize it) is off topic because transmission would not be rapid enough to end civilization.

Concrete Biosecurity Projects (some of which could be big)

AIDS is considered to be an epidemic, not a pandemic, but can a sexually-transmitted disease similar to AIDS lead to a pandemic? I doubt it, because pandemics are dangerous (in part) due to rapid spread, a feature which a sexually-transmitted disease will never possess. I'd be a slightly more worried only if everyone was a lot more promiscuous.

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