Over the past few years, it has become quite obvious that Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) pose a much larger threat than they did thirty years ago. By observing their studies and trends, experts have nearly proven that Emerging Infectious Diseases are not just a thing of the past. Many of these diseases originate in a non-human animal source, also known as zoonoses (zoonotic hosts). It is most important that the experts communicate with the public about the seriousness of EID, in case of an outbreak.
Our nation, and world, must recognize the importance of these diseases in order to respond to them as the threat of their expansion grows larger. To be a bit more specific, an Emerging Infectious Disease is one that has appeared in the population before, or has reappeared, and is rapidly increasing. Juan P. Olano, MD and David H. Walker, MD from the Medical Branch at the University of Texas presented their study about these types of diseases. After looking over the time period of 1967 through 2009, their study revealed that there were a total of about 335 infectious agents described.
Just a few of these agents that were descried during these years were Rotavirus (1973), HIV-1 (1983), Hepatitis E Virus (1990), and Influenza A H1N1 (2009). Many diseases that were thought to be under control in the past, such as Tuberculosis and Malaria, have recently resurfaced. According to the Health Medical Lab (Interactive Health Education) online, Tuberculosis is easily caught by individuals who have been diagnosed with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Of course, there are antibiotics to help treat the airborne TB. However, individuals who have reduced access to healthcare, or simply never get tested, cannot be treated.
After never being treated, the development of drug-resistant strands of the disease can develop. This leads to the spread of the multi-drug-resistant strands of Tuberculosis, making the problem of Emerging Infectious Diseases even more serious. There are hundreds of other EIDs, other than Tuberculosis. Imagine if each one of these diseases becomes drug-resistant. We must realize the significance of instances like this one and we must also realize that vaccines do not always fix everything. So what is the main cause of the increase in Emerging Infectious Diseases? Well, I can present a few answers to that question.
Many studies completed about these types of diseases shows that there are a few factors that could be the reason why they continue to occur in the first place. The main causes are overcrowding, rapid growth in population, and insufficient sanitation. These factors have caused reappearance of vaccine-preventable diseases that have been previously controlled. In undeveloped countries, this problem has been intensified by malnutrition, lack of clean water, and overpopulation. This leads us to the topic of zoonotic EIDs. As earlier presented, zoonotic EIDs, or zoonoses, are those pathogens that have a non-human animal source.
According to the “Nature” journal in February of 2008, 60. 3% of Emerging Infectious Diseases are caused by these zoonotic agents. Let’s take a look at the disease titled SARS- Sever Acute Respiratory Syndrome. SARS presents “flu-like” symptoms in its victims, and is believed to have been transmitted to humans by a mammal with a cat-like appearance. From November of 2002 to July of 2003, there was a large outbreak of SARS in Hong Kong. Appearing as a pandemic, there were 8,422 cases and 916 deaths worldwide, with the disease effecting about 37 countries. Experts say the disease was contained and has not been present since.
However, research has additionally shown that the virus may still be present in animals and this could lead to an outbreak in the future. Many specialists agree that one of the main problems with zoonotic pathogens is the delayed response and reporting of the diseases. In May of 2010, in the article titled “Fighting the Rise of Emerging Infectious Diseases,” USA Today Magazine explained that sometimes nations may be ashamed or reluctant to report zoonoses. They say that there may be a conflict of interest, or the potential negative impacts on the local economies hinder them from reporting as soon as the disease is discovered.
Others say that medical intervention carelessness could be a main reason for zoonotics becoming such a large part of Emerging Infectious Diseases all together. USA Today gave a few examples for this. On some occasions rabies virus transmissions occurred through organ transplantation. Also, Xenotransplantation (the transfer of organs or other tissues from animal to humans) has been known to pose possible risks. We must also take the issues of limited veterinary facilities, natural disasters like flooding and earthquakes, and poor sanitation into effect.
Each one of these problems I have just mentioned enforces a great threat to the zoonotic side of EIDs. No matter the reason or cause, we must grasp the severity of these diseases and we must realize that if we do not acknowledge them, they will take over. We could spend each and every waking hour researching Emerging Infectious Diseases and what may cause them. However, it should be quite apparent that regardless of what we believe EIDs are ultimately on the rise. So what happens next? How do we prevent the rise of these diseases or how do we at least begin to deal with them?
There may never be a straight answer as to how we should handle them as a whole. But, the best idea yet comes down to the communication between the experts and the public. To express the point of how dangerous Emerging Infectious Diseases are to our global health, we must have proper communication. In Heath Risk and Society, Bev J. Holmes gave her ideas about this very topic. She explained that many people would never be aware of serious outbreak of these diseases. Holmes stated that most individuals believe an outbreak would be obvious, and this is not always the case.
These same individuals believe that the diseases will be clearly and easily identifiable and easily pronounced. Once again, this is not the case for every instance. In order to clear up these types of ideas that have spread, we once again should focus on the communication wave between experts and the public. Holmes says there are a many questions that need to be answered, before an outbreak occurs. When does a situation become a health crisis? Who holds the power to declare such a crisis? What role will the media play in informing the community about the crisis?
Answers to these questions (and similar ones) must be thought about, studied, and identified prior to an outbreak. Of course, we never know when the next pandemic could occur or where it may originate. In cases like these, we must expect the unexpected. In other words, we must get on the ball now and stop wasting time. Without communication, our world will never understand the ruthlessness and severity of Emerging Infectious Diseases. Finally, we must also acknowledge that Emerging Infectious Disease pathogens have been and can be used as bioterrorism.
In 2001, right after the attacks of September 11th, there was an outbreak of the Anthrax virus. Epidemiologist (those experts who study such diseases) determined that Anthrax was deliberately spread by terrorist. By placing powder that contained Anthrax on letters sent through the US Postal Service, terrorist killed 5 individuals and infected 17 others.
One of the letters stated “9-11-01 YOU CAN NOT STOP US. WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX. YOU DIE NOW. ARE YOU AFRAID? DEATH TO AMERICA. DEATH TO ISREAL. ALLAH IS GREAT. ” Being that all of the letters sent were copies, the original was never actually found.
After examining the letters, the FBI determined that the Anthrax attacks were closely related to the 9/11 attacks and Al-Qaeda was blamed. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated, “The anthrax cases highlighted the importance of the “golden triangle” of response between clinicians and clinical microbiologists, the health-care delivery system, and public health officials. Steps have been taken to strengthen these and other critical linkages, including those between professionals in the human, veterinary, and public health communities and between the public health, law enforcement, and emergency response systems.
” Rapid response teams have been established and extreme, intense training about these situations have been initiated. The CDC explains that the work does not end here, more must be done. The Anthrax attack was relatively small and a further attack could be much more serious, effecting more than just 22 individuals. That is not to say the attack was not important because that is not the case at all. Officials have taken this case and learned from it, and they are continuing to study what needs to be done in order to better identify an attack like the Anthrax outbreak in 2001.
If we can recognize these diseases quicker, we can treat them quicker. All in all, this will better our global health in the end and it will help us be more aware of Emerging Infectious Diseases. Planning and preparedness are extremely significant for future circumstances. The cases I have mentioned within my text should be a great eye opener to the fact that Emerging Infectious Diseases are tremendously serious to global health. If we cannot begin to realize their significance, they will ultimately take over.
“Mother Nature’s potential threat may be, in the end, much greater than any destruction that could result from another world war, a nuclear bomb blast, or some heinous act of terrorism,” stated USA Today Magazine. It is important that experts continue to study zoonotics and other types of Emerging Infectious Diseases, and it is even more important that, together, we prepare for the instance of a serious outbreak. Experts, healthcare providers, and other specialist must communicate with the public about EIDs. In order for us to overpower these diseases, we have to expect them, prepare for them, and be ready to respond to them in an extremely sufficient manner.
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* Jones, K., Patel, N. , Levy, M. , Storeygard, A. , Balk, D. , Gittleman, J. , and Daszak, P. (2008). Global trends in emerging infectious diseases. Nature, 451 (7181), 990-993. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. * James M. Hughes and Julie L. Gerberding. (October 2002 ). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Anthrax Bioterrorism: Lessons Learned and Future Directions. Retrieved October 5, 2011, from http://wwwnc. cdc. gov/eid/article/8/10/02-0466_article. htm. * Brown, C. (2010). Fighting the Rise of Emerging Infectious Diseases. USA Today Magazine, 138 (2780) 16. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.