If life is an IQ test, then dealing with pandemics is a high-priority item. Getting the right answer may save your life, so test-taking motivation ought to be high.
At first glance, the answer is obvious: avoid ill people, and if in doubt, avoid people. That ought to do it. Stay quietly in a room until the whole thing blows over. If you have the means, that room should be guarded on either side by fires. Such was the advice the Pope received during the Great Pestilence, and following it saved his life. Not everyone can afford such luxurious protection, but the principles are clear: since there must be a means of transmission, a blazing fire is likely to consume the noxious agent, whatever it is. As for visitors, they are to be kept away, preferably in a guarded place, like the ship they came in, moored at a safe distance for forty days, the Venetian quaranta giorni which worked well to protect them. Those inland principalities which harshly confined plague victims to die with their families in their bricked-up houses were able to save their other citizens. Tough governance. Forty days in the wilderness and the whole thing is over.
Perhaps the test item has a little more to it. Two bright Scotsmen provided more detail in 1927.
A contribution to the mathematical theory of epidemics William Ogilvy Kermack and A. G. McKendrick. 01 August 1927 https://doi.org/10.1098/rspa.1927.0118
They get to the nub of the matter:
One (or more) infected person is introduced into a community of individuals, more or less susceptible to the disease in question. The disease spreads from the affected to the unaffected by contact infection. Each infected person runs through the course of his sickness, and finally is removed from the number of those who are sick, by recovery or by death. The chances of recovery or death vary from day to day during the course of his illness. The chances that the affected may convey infection to the unaffected are likewise dependent upon the stage of the sickness. As the epidemic spreads, the number of unaffected members of the community becomes reduced. Since the course of an epidemic is short compared with the life of an individual, the population may be considered as remaining constant, except in as far as it is modified by deaths due to the epidemic disease itself. In the course of time the epidemic may come to an end. One of the most important probems in epidemiology is to ascertain whether this termination occurs only when no susceptible individuals are left, or whether the interplay of the various factors of infectivity, recovery and mortality, may result in termination, whilst many susceptible individuals are still present in the unaffected population. It is difficult to treat this problem in its most general aspect. In the present communication discussion will be limited to the case in which all members of the community are initially equally susceptible to the disease, and it will be further assumed that complete immunity is conferred by a single infection.
The basic reproductive number R0 for Covid-19 has been calculated on 25 January. as 2·68 (95% CrI 2·47–2·86) However, that is a guesstimate, and now out of date, and variables such as the number of people tested, the accuracy of testing, and also the honesty of reporting of official Chinese figures are all sources of error. The better the test the quicker contacts can be accurately traced and tested. Scientists have to model how long elapses between persons getting the virus and showing symptoms, and calculating how many people might get infected by an non-symptomatic individual carrying the virus, even on the unlikely assumption of equal vulnerability. Then they need to look at the recovered or dead figures, to work out how lethal it is (or was some weeks ago, because it may have mutated since then).
There are other confusions, since the symptoms of this epidemic are very similar to those experienced in other winter influenzas. Reporting has to be prompt and honest, and coordinated internationally.
In fact, modelling is now moving closer to looking at sections of the population, and noting the big differences in the numbers of people that individuals meet, and the type of social networks they interact with.
That leads on naturally to the topic of prevention. Psychology should have something to offer, though the main changes in behaviour required are the standard requirements of disease control.
The city state of Singapore is seen to be doing best, after a shaky start. Admittedly, this state started disease control decades ago as a matter of survival. Standing water was prohibited, such that mosquitos were diminished, and malaria reduced. Even spilling some water on a balcony and leaving it there over a siesta would result in denunciation and a penalty. Governance is based on pragmatism.
Researchers have designed an improved test which quickly and accurately identifies infected persons and allows contacts to be traced and tested. Every public building requires you to wash your hands as you enter. Schools and offices likewise. Many people are wearing face masks, which are only moderately effective (better if N95 standard in US, FFP3 in Europe), but have the symbolic advantage of reminding all citizens of the peril, which will reduce social exchanges like shaking hands. Nods are sufficient acknowledgement when you are greeting another disease carrier.
Citizens take their own temperatures, and if they rise they get tested and then self-quarantine themselves till clear, while all their contacts are traced and quarantined. Life goes on, and the economy continues to function. All very rational, and intelligent, and conducive to survival. Better still, you reduce the spread of influenza, which currently kills more people than the new virus does. Two birds saved with every hand wash. In fact, if all these behaviours become the new norm we could achieve a permanent defence against many of these epidemics.
Will those preventative behaviours be adopted by other countries? That is the latest IQ test.