Saturday, October 31, 2020

Mackay's Swiss Cheese Virus Defense

This is just a detail.
Keep reading to view
Mackay's entire C19 infographic.

People from all vocations are seeking ways to address the current COVID-19 Pandemic.  

Researchers are verifying that we benefit from adopting MULTIPLE MITIGATION LAYERS in order to reduce the spread of viruses. 

As a gerontologist, I am reading about the vulnerabilities that older adults face if they become infected with SARS-CoV-2. 

As a university teacher, I am guiding my students to write papers based on peer-reviewed, scientific articles about the virus and the resulting disease. 

And as a family member, I am constantly seeking information on how to protect myself and my family. 

By following scientists and medical professionals on Twitter, I read information about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 before the mainstream media brings information from medical research to the lay reader. 

Here is my Twitter list of 200 plus COVID-19 stakeholders. 

This is where I discovered Ian M. Mackay, PhD, who uses his expertise as a virologist on his Twitter account @MackayIM Mackay has a PhD in virology from University of Queensland where he now works as an adjunct associate professor. 

On his blog, Virology Down Under, Mackay explains his passion for sharing technical knowledge with the lay reader through clear language and informative images.  I have seen many medical professional, scientists, and journalists share his work. I recommend that you read his blog and follow him on Twitter for excellent content. 

But in order to present to you his most useful and compelling creation, I am sharing his infographic (with his written permission),

"The Swiss Cheese Respiratory Virus Pandemic Defence"

Click to enlarge, or better yet, follow this link

Mackay, Ian M. (2020): The Swiss Cheese Respiratory Virus Defence. figshare. Figure. 

Mackay takes an image used in engineering and applies it to virology. I am elated to see the concept of multiple mitigation efforts illustrated within one image. For months, I have been reading materials in an attempt to understand what Mackay puts into focus in his infographic. 

He has updated this image based on continued research and input from others around the world. We share this world, and I am encouraged by his engagement with specialists from across the globe. (I am even conveying the British / Australian spelling of defense as "defence."  If you want to share this infographic with Spanish, German, Portuguese, and Greek (I think?) labels, find them here

One result of his revisions that I find a charming way to depict a horrifying variable: Mackay's 24 October 2020 update to this infograph added the little brown mouse (near the center) to represent the way disinformation erodes protection from infection. 

To the left are Personal Responsibilities 

  • Physical Distance Stay at Home If Sick
  • Masks
  • Hand Hygiene Cough Etiquette
  • Avoid Touching Your Face
  • If Crowded Limit Your Time
To the right are Shared Responsibilities
  • Fast and Sensitive Testing & Tracing
  • Ventilation, Outdoors, Air Filtration
  • Gov't Messaging and Financial Support
  • Quarantine & Isolation
  • Vaccines
All my best to you and yours during this extraordinary time.  

And thank you to all the scientists, medical researchers, healthcare workers, epidemiologists, public health officials and countless other professionals working tirelessly to help mitigate the effects of SARS-CoV-2 and the resulting COVID-19 disease.  

We are better together. And we reduce the spread of viruses with multiple mitigation efforts. In other words, the more the merrier and healthier. 



  1. Karen, this is amazing! Never have I seen it portrayed in such a simple--understandable--manner. Thank you for sharing.
    And now I'm sharing!

    1. No problem. I follow a number of virologists / microbiologist / epidemiologists on Twitter through a Twitter list I created by seeing which scientists retweet each other. When MacKay updated this model in late October, microbiolgists and other specialists retweeted it with a lot of positive comments, so I asked Dr. MacKay if I could share it in a blog post. I am glad you find it useful!

  2. Karen, I found this the best visual yet. Thank you.

    1. Good News! Dr. MacKay actually went from a full-time teacher / research to part-time so that he could work on communicating information about viruses to the general public. He did this BEFORE the C19 pandemic. He's providing a valuable service to the lay reader.

  3. I love the Swiss cheese analogy. I plan to share the blog post with my local health department. They are having a lot of trouble with tracing compliance.

    1. Oh, I am glad you are going to share this. Dr. MacKay gives credit to another person who developed this swiss cheese model for air safety (if I'm remembering correctly). But he created this and then revised it with input from other experts. A couple of weeks after I posted this, the NYT shared this model. (I follow MacKay on twitter through a twitter list I built of science / public health experts.) I am glad you find it shareable!