Justin Bieber: public health catastrophe?

Never Say Never (Justin Bieber song)

I noticed a research article published by the Transworld Research Network, and summarized in the current issue of The Atlantic. The authors, Valerie Tweedle and Robert J. Smith?, examined the spread of Bieber fever in North American populations, and conclude that Bieber fever is one of the most infectious diseases known.

The authors treated Bieber Fever like any other infectious disease, producing a number of signs and symptoms including “uncontrollable crying and/or screaming, excessive purchasing of memorabilia, and poor lifestyle choices (e.g. copycat hairstyles).”  Furthermore, as the condition moves through a population, it follows predictable kinetics similar to those caused by any other infectious agent where individuals move between susceptible to infected to recovered.

The authors then model Bieber Fever, and consider a constant influx of new pre-teens into the susceptible pool of individuals, which in turn is diminished by a loss of individuals who have become “bored” with Bieber. The transition from susceptible to infected is dependent upon a combination of positive and negative media exposure, as well as direct contact with infected and recovered individuals. By imputing a set of estimated values for all of these, the authors were able to determine an estimated R-0 value, which represents the number of cases that 1 infection can lead to. For instance, for every person infected with pandemic influenza, they are able to infect 2 to 3 additional people for an R-0 value of 2-3. Smallpox was more infectious, and had an R-0 value of between 5 and 7. Our current infectious champion is measles, with an R-0 of about 12, meaning that every person with measles will infect a dozen others during the epidemic. Bieber Fever leaves all of these behind, with an estimated R-0 of around 24, or twice as infectious as measles.

They conclude with a series of alarming predictions. First, Bieber Fever, unlike other infectious diseases, can occur in the absence of any infected individuals. Second, media exposure appears to significantly contribute the severity of the outbreaks, although in the absence of media coverage outbreaks would continue to occur, just in a milder form. They recommend that the only useful strategy to eliminate Bieber Fever is to utilize the tools of the media in the form of negative publicity, perhaps by introducing strategically placed news articles in tabloids in supermarket checkout lines.


About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on June 14, 2012, in Get off my lawn!, Strange but True and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. LOL!!!!! That is awesome and I will be more then happy to fight Bieber Fever by whatever means necessary I can not stand that kid!!!!!!! We must all ban together to fight this horrible infectious disease running rampant through our preteens. May I suggest the I hate Justin Bieber fan club on FB!!!

  2. I just got home from school and checked my email…and I must admit I am very passionate about my disdain for Justin Bieber

  3. Dr. Saverio Monachino

    thankfully my two children were out of the ‘infectable’ age when this disease hit the stage.

  4. I don’t have any of my own but I am getting my first niece in July…for her baby shower I made her a mix cd of music like: Led Zepelin, GNR, Metallica, Weezer, etc done in the stylings of lullabies, they are quite beautiful and also will introduce her ears to good music early….yes, I suppose at times I do believe in brain washing…lol

    • I posted the link on my FB page, with the comment that thankfully my two daughters appear to have some measure of immunity. We’ll see if they ‘unfriend’ me for that.

  5. Lol. This is great. Love the comparison to the flu….lol ….my little niece has it BAD. Not only is it a public health catastrophe ….it puts ppl at risk for bodily injury!! ppl have actually been injured at his concerts and he’s had to cancle shows before in Norway bc his expected arrival caused somewhat of a teenage female riot LOL ..n a mall appearence was cancelled in the states bc so many pol came that it put the mall at full capacity. There was a scandal w the mall appearence he was charged w inciting a riot n his PR manager was arrears and fined (its on YouTube!) Some singers throw things off the stage during concerts…he can’t bc the first two times he did pol got hurt. Its CRAZY how these girls act!!!

  6. His manager was ARRESTED….*** sorry for the misspelling!

  7. I too share a strong dislike for this kid; mainly because his fans make me crazy. But I would be lying if I said, as a child of the [gulp] 80’s, that New Kids On The Block made me act this exact-same-way. More specifically, Jordan…*swoon*

    • I was a child of the 70’s. Middle school girls back then had posters of David Cassidy in their bedrooms. The fan clubs were just as active. Ten years before that in the 60’s, it was either John or Paul. George and Ringo were for the truly radical ones.

  8. I can’t believe Bieber Fever didn’t make it into the DSM-5.

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