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Incentives for Reporting Infectious Disease Outbreaks

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  • Anup Malani
  • Ramanan Laxminarayan

Abstract

The global spread of diseases such as swine flu and SARS highlights the difficult decision governments face when presented with evidence of a local outbreak. Reporting the outbreak may bring medical assistance but is also likely to trigger trade sanctions by countries hoping to contain the disease. Suppressing the information may avoid trade sanctions, but increases the likelihood of widespread epidemics. In this paper, we model the government’s decision as a signaling game in which a country has private but imperfect evidence of an outbreak. First, we find that not all sanctions discourage reporting. Sanctions based on fears of an undetected outbreak (false negatives) encourage disclosure by reducing the relative cost of sanctions that follow a reported outbreak. Second, improving the quality of detection technology may not promote the disclosure of an outbreak because the forgone trade from reporting truthfully is that much greater. Third, informal surveillance is an important channel for publicizing outbreaks and functions as an exogenous yet imperfect signal that is less likely to discourage disclosure. In sum, obtaining accurate information about potential epidemics is as much about reporting incentives as it is about detection technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Anup Malani & Ramanan Laxminarayan, 2011. "Incentives for Reporting Infectious Disease Outbreaks," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 46(1), pages 176-202.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:46:y:2011:i:1:p:176-202
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    4. Pfaff, Alexander S P & Sanchirico, Chris William, 2000. "Environmental Self-Auditing: Setting the Proper Incentives for Discovery and Correction of Environmental Harm," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(1), pages 189-208, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Saak, Alexander E. & Hennessy, David A., 2016. "A model of reporting and controlling outbreaks by public health agencies:," IFPRI discussion papers 1529, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    2. Saak, Alexander E., 2012. "Infectious disease detection with private information:," IFPRI discussion papers 1162, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    3. Scott A. Baker & Anup Malani, 2011. "Does Accuracy Improve the Information Value of Trials?," NBER Working Papers 17036, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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