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Infectious Disease Outbreak in Colombia

A mural of a girl wearing a mask is on a wall in Colombia with a Colombian guard in a mask next to it

Case Overview

The threat of a potentially large-scale pandemic caused by a mysterious new disease in Colombia has persuaded some governments to impose strict restrictions on trade and travel to South America.

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The Situation

Several crises over the past decade have highlighted the inadequacy of global health governance and pandemic preparedness. Globalization and its consequences—among them population growth, global warming, urbanization, and easier trade and travel—have all contributed to outbreaks of infectious disease. Since 2000, a series of epidemics, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), H1N1, Zika, and Ebola, have taken a significant toll, prompting experts to call for increased investment in global health security—efforts to help prepare countries prevent, detect, and respond to epidemic and potentially pandemic diseases. Despite these calls, progress toward increased pandemic preparedness has been insufficient, a fact painfully underscored by the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Moreover, debate still exists over the proper strategies to address outbreaks of infectious disease, with national health officials often divided over the proper way to respond to a certain outbreak. With this division, and coordination of international pandemic response still ad hoc, an infectious disease with a greater lethality than those seen in the past decade could have devastating consequences. With an outbreak of Venezuelan equine encephalitis wreaking havoc in northern Colombia and threatening to spill over into already unstable Venezuela, the National Security Council needs to decide how to prioritize and pursue the U.S. interests at stake. Crucially, NSC members must decide whether and how to implement travel restrictions into the country, weighing the benefits of containing the outbreak with the potential of imposing significant costs on Colombia and Venezuela. 



  • Global health
  • Pandemic preparedness
  • Weak states
  • Multilateralism
  • Oil and other natural resources
  • Public opinion



  • Pandemic preparedness
  • Global health governance
  • Colombian health-care system
  • Costs, benefits, and risks of military and other interventions
  • Stable flow of oil
  • Regional security in the Americas

See Also:

The Pandemic and Beyond:

A series of news-based pop-up cases covering the widespread impact of the pandemic

A health worker in a hazmat suit prepares to test someone

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