Lessons on Border Management From Historic Disease Epidemics and Pandemics


Published: Winter 2021    |    By:  Ashleigh Tuite and David Fisman   |    Volume 69, No.2



The importance of human mobility for the spread of some communicable diseases has long been recognized. Cordons sanitaires, targeted or complete border closures, and screening and quarantine of travelers are the main tools used to manage spatial spread of infection. There is an epidemiological basis for limiting movement into and out of regions experiencing unusual disease activity, but the application of border control approaches has been met with varying levels of success in real-world outbreak settings. We have learned from past epidemics and pandemics that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to border management and mobility restrictions. The impact of various measures depends on the attributes of the pathogen, the robustness of disease surveillance systems, and the stage of the outbreak at which restrictions are implemented.

About the Authors

Ashleigh Tuite is an infectious disease epidemiologist, mathematical modeler, and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Dr. Tuite’s research program focuses on the use of mathematical modeling and other quantitative methods to improve decision-making for emerging, re-emerging, and endemic communicable diseases. She is particularly interested in the use of mathematical models to synthesize and communicate complex information and uncertainty.

David Fisman is Professor in the Division of Epidemiology at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, at the University of Toronto, and a practicing Internist with a focus on infectious diseases.