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  • sigakingone sigakingone Jan 8, 2014 12:43 AM Flag

    Top 5 health threats in 2014 Strong new germs, globalization worrisome


    The disease detectives at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named the top five global health threats they expect to tackle in 2014:

    1. The emergence and spread of new microbes

    While it’s rare, CDC scientists do come across new diseases each year. In 2013, the new Heartland virus carried by ticks was confirmed in northwest Missouri. Federal health investigators collected samples in the state after two farmers from St. Joseph were sickened by the virus that carried a novel genetic profile.

    The CDC is making disease detection a major priority in 2014, in the U.S. and abroad. New technologies and software have enabled faster DNA identification of infectious germs.

    2. The globalization of travel and food supplies

    Diseases that were thought to be eradicated in the U.S. are now back because of lower vaccination rates and increased international travel. In 2013, measles cases in the U.S. doubled to 175, almost all linked to foreign travel. American scientists are training their colleagues worldwide and helping build new labs to investigate outbreaks.

    Disease can spread anywhere in the world within 24 hours, Frieden said. Contaminants in the food supply can also spread quickly, as evidenced by the 2011 E. coli outbreak in nine states that started with romaine lettuce sold at St. Louis-area Schnucks markets.

    3. The rise of antibiotic-resistant infections

    Some bacteria have become resistant to several types of antibiotics, making it harder to fight infectious diseases. Drug-resistant infections are particularly dangerous for people with a compromised immune system, including those with cancer, kidney failure or organ transplants. In some cases, doctors and nurses have had to resort to less effective and more toxic antibiotics when the first-line defenses fail.

    Several drug-resistant bacteria, including forms of gonorrhea, tuberculosis, salmonella and strep are considered urgent or serious threats to public health because doctors are running out of drugs to treat these infections. The overuse of antibiotics is the main pathway for drug-resistant infections. About half of antibiotic prescriptions are considered to be unnecessary. The CDC is working with the FDA to reduce the use of antibiotics in the food chain.

    “One of my key principles in using antibiotics properly is to make sure the patient receives the correct amount of a medication that only treats the bacteria or germs involved in the infection,” said infectious disease pharmacist Ryan Moenster, associate professor at St. Louis College of Pharmacy.

    4. Inadvertent or intentional release of pathogens

    The 2009 death of a scientist who caught the plague in a University of Chicago lab alarmed many in the disease research world. An estimated three of every 1,000 lab workers are sickened each year, most commonly with hepatitis, typhoid fever or tuberculosis, according to the National Institutes of Health.

    Many labs require specialty ventilation and other security protections and are regularly inspected by federal agents. Lab workers must pass background checks.

    5. Bioterrorism

    Some inhaled pathogens such as anthrax, pneumonic plague or smallpox are considered potential weapons in a bioterrorism attack. Saint Louis University is studying a new plague vaccine at the behest of federal health officials for potential use in the military. The military has previously used a plague vaccine, but it caused side effects such as headaches and fever.

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