Going off of what we discussed today in lecture, I wanted to do some research about infectious diseases and what exactly was going on in the world with them. Surprisingly enough, I found a lot of information; a lot of bad (or scary) information to be exact! Just when we thought the worst was over, we've evolved into an era where infectious diseases are becoming the top contender for illnesses and deaths throughout the U.S. and the globe! So, what kind of diseases are we talking about? How serious is this? Well, that's exactly what I wanted/needed to find out!
National Geographic has recently published an article on their website addressing infectious diseases and their increasing presence in the United States (an area where most people believe is somehow "immune" to these diseases). One example discussed in this article involves a case of West Nile Fever, which was carried into the U.S. by mosquitoes. The disease originated in Uganda, and is thought to be spread by infected birds, who are bit by mosquitoes, who then bite humans (West Nile Virus).The case being discussed is located in Florida, but there have been other cases basically throughout the entire United States! This is scary because many people thought that West Nile Virus wouldn't become an issue in the United States because of all the different types of vaccinations we grow up getting. However, as this CDC website shows there are only a handful of states that only have had West Nile Virus in animals and only one state that has yet to have it: every other state has had at least one case of the disease! It's scary to think that a disease we thought was only contaminating one area has so quickly spread and been found in almost every state in the U.S. It really makes me wonder how or if we can ever stop infectious diseases?!
But one of the most astonishing things that I found from research is that there are more & more possibilities of these infectious diseases affecting us everyday! One example of how these diseases could seriously harm us is if terrorists used infectious diseases to destroy an entire nation of people they don't like! I know that after September 11, one of the big security threats that our nation was worried about was the possibility of other terrorists using infectious diseases like Anthrax to kill our political leaders. It is this type of security threat that I believe most often we do not associate with when we think about the spreading of diseases. However, this kind of threat is one that should definitely be considered more often and should not be overlooked!
Another thing that I found that scares me about infectious diseases is how unprepared it seems the world is to handle them. According to this Medical News article, there are plenty of infectious diseases facing Americans in today's society. Think of outbreaks of MRSA, or Swine Flu, or even Tuberculosis! Some of these diseases are newer (like the Swine Flu), but Tuberculosis was thought to be completely eradicated, and is now actually coming back up in cases here in the U.S. Why is this happening? It could be due to our immunizations wearing off, in which case we need booster shots. But it could also be due to mutations in the disease that our previous shots do not make us immune to.
Although we may we have some vaccinations for different diseases like these, going off of the example brought up in class today with Smallpox, what are we supposed to do when we only have a few million, but billions of people need the vaccination? A suggestion from the Medical News article is for the entire globe to work together on infectious diseases, and I think they're right! In the United States alone there are more & more cases of infectious diseases taking lives, and this is in a nation that is thought to be at the very top as far as development and research goes. If we can't figure out how to develop vaccines quickly enough to save our own people, how can we expect researchers in poor countries with even more limited resources to save all of their population? I believe that if the world's top scientists and researchers could communicate together to find a solution to keep up with these diseases, they would most definitely be solving one of the world's greatest problems!
Infectious Diseases is an area that I can honestly say I never knew much about, and I most certainly did not think that it was affecting our lives as much as it truly is. It's scary to think that the diseases that we thought we were immune to, are actually come back to take the lives of people today & sometimes there is just nothing we can do about it. It's also scary to think that terrorists could/would use these diseases to start a type of "war". I'm not sure what the exact solution to fixing this problem is, but I hope we can find something soon because if not, our future looks rather scary!
What do you think? What's the best way to fight these types of diseases? Who should get the limited number of vaccinations that we have for certain infectious diseases? Those are all tough questions, but I'm glad that I don't have to make the final decision on the last one!
Here's some more research on this topic:
Tips to keep yourself clean (& hopefully fight off those diseases)
Really interesting video chat with Peter Hudson about Infectious Diseases