U.S. not prepared for emerging diseases

We haven't had a severe outbreak of the flu or other type of illness in recent years, and yet 170,000 Americans die each year from new or re-emerging infectious diseases. A new report from the Trust for America's Health points out that if there were to be a major outbreak of such infectious diseases, those mortality numbers would go up dramatically.

According to NIAID, these include pathogens that have just been recognized in the past two decades, such as helicobacter pylori, hepatitis E and lyme borreliosis; re-emerging pathogens such as the mumps virus, enterovirus 71 and C. diff.; new threats like the West Nile virus; or the return of pathogens once eradicated, such as yellow fever and typhus.

We are not prepared for such an outbreak, the report says, because while the amount of global travel to and from the U.S. has drastically increased, our ability to fight the diseases people bring back from abroad has not. The report suggests increased federal funding and a global effort to prevent emerging diseases from spreading as two partial solutions of the problem.

To learn more about the report:
- read this Modern Healthcare piece (reg. req.)
- read NIAID's list of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases