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Epidemics

Zika:

Zika Testing Lags for a Group Both Vulnerable and Hard to Track” (front page, June 18) highlighted the need for improved education and outreach, expanded research and development of new tests, and an adequately resourced public health work force to confront the spread of the virus here and abroad.

As of mid-June, Zika had spread to 60 countries, resulting in rising rates of microcephaly in newborns, other neurological effects including Guillain-Barré syndrome, and increased miscarriages and stillbirths. With no mosquito-borne transmission of Zika in the continental United States yet, we have already seen 819 travel-associated cases.

The article makes clear that we are not prepared for the inevitable escalation of cases this summer.

- Johan Bakken, President of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, Needed: Urgent Action to Fight Zika (Letter to the Editor), NYT, June 29, 2016


The Threat of Epidemics and Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria:

With 7.4 billion people, 20 billion chickens and 400 million pigs now sharing the earth, we have created the ideal scenario for creating and spreading dangerous microbes. Trade and travel have connected most points on the globe in a matter of hours. More and more people are living in the microbe-rich megacity slums of the developing world.
By some estimates, the 1918-19 “Spanish” influenza killed more people than all the wars of the 20th century combined. Today, an influenza pandemic could be more devastating than an atom bomb. We are already witnessing an outbreak of influenza in birds — the H7N9 strain, in China — that could be the source for the next human pandemic. Since October, over 500 people have been infected; more than 34 percent have died. Most victims had contact with infected poultry, yet three recent clusters appear to be from person-to-person transmission. Will H7N9 mutate to become easily transmitted between humans? We don’t know. But without sufficient supplies of a vaccine, we are not prepared to stop it.
The spread of antibiotic-resistant microbes also continues at an ever faster rate. Last year a comprehensive review predicted that, if left unchecked, drug-resistant infections will kill more people worldwide by 2050 than cancer and diabetes combined.
- MICHAEL T. OSTERHOLM and MARK OLSHAKER, The Real Threat to National Security: Deadly Disease, NYT, MARCH 24, 2017


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