Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Current Infectious Diseases Threats Discussed

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Current Infectious Diseases Threats Discussed

Article excerpt

Current emerging infectious disease threats are bringing a heightened sense of awareness of smallpox, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), monkey-pox, norovirus, HIV and West Nile disease, health officials said at a press conference sponsored by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID).

Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health discussed the status of these threats and outlined current and future preparedness efforts needed in the United States to manage them.

CDC Director Julie L. Gerberding, MD, MPH, noted the public's health will be impacted in the years to come by emerging infectious diseases like SARS. "Although the epidemic appears to be coming under containment now, we have no idea what to expect in the fall. It would not be surprising if we had a resurgence," she predicted.

According to Gerberding, SARS could reappear in the fall much like other respiratory illnesses such as influenza and may be spread by people who don't realize that they are carriers of the virus. Many individuals who have contracted SARS have had mild versions or no symptoms at all.

It is still unknown whether the virus can be transmitted by those who are asymptomatic. Although the future of SARS is uncertain, more information is available regarding the disease that will allow the medical community to act quickly if an outbreak should occur.

Gerberding explained that it is important to be vigilant during these times. "The new normal is emerging infectious diseases," she stated, adding, "Emerging infectious diseases are almost instantaneously a global concern because of the speed with which people, animals and products move around the world."

In order to adapt to these new threats, there is a need for timely identification and reporting, the need to consider health problems from a global perspective, and the need to incorporate practicing physicians in the process as much as possible. …

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