Influenza preparedness and the bureaucratic reflex: anticipating and generating the 2009 H1N1 event

Health Place. 2012 Jul;18(4):701-9. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2011.11.004.


This paper draws together work on the event to problematise the generative implications of anticipatory governance in the management of emerging infectious disease. Through concerns for preparedness, the need to anticipate outbreaks of disease has taken on a new urgency. With the identification of the H1N1 virus circulating amongst human populations in 2009, public health measures and security practices at regional, national and international levels were rapidly put into play. However, as the ensuing event demonstrated, the social, political and economic disruptions of emerging infectious diseases can be matched by those of anticipatory actions. I argue that the event-making potential of surveillance practices and the pre-determined arrangements of influenza preparedness planning, when triggered by the H1N1 virus, caused an event acceleration through the hyper-sensitised global health security architecture. In the UK, this led to a bureaucratic reflex, a security response event that overtook the present actualities of the disease. This raises questions about the production of forms of insecurity by the security apparatus itself.

MeSH terms

  • Civil Defense
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Forecasting
  • Government
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype*
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology*
  • International Cooperation
  • Politics
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Public Health
  • Security Measures / organization & administration*
  • United Kingdom