The Global Threat of New and Reemerging Infectious Diseases: Reconciling U.S. National Security and Public Health Policy

By Jennifer Brower; Peter Chalk | Go to book overview

Chapter Four
U.S. SECURITY AND THE RISK POSED BY
INFECTIOUS DISEASES

While the average American life expectancy is substantially higher than it was in the past (and continues to grow) and many infectious diseases have been eliminated from the continent over the past century, microorganisms still pose a significant and increasing threat to the country. According to the National Intelligence Council (NIC), “New and reemerging infectious diseases will … complicate US and global security over the next 20 years. These diseases will endanger US citizens at home and abroad, threaten armed forces deployed overseas, and exacerbate social and political instability in key countries and regions in which the United States has significant interests.”1 In recognizing the increasing threat posed by infectious disease, the NIC marked a watershed in U.S. foreign policy, particularly in the context of expanding its focus beyond traditional, statecentered sources of instability.

Why are emerging and reemerging infectious diseases on the rise? Many of the factors discussed in Chapter Two regarding the general increased microbial threat apply equally to developing countries and to the United States, including globalization, modern medical practices, accelerating urbanization, global warming, and changing social and behavioral patterns. (Some apply to the United States to a greater extent than others.) This chapter analyzes these various influences in greater detail and delineates the impact that infectious

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1
NIC, “The Global Infectious Disease Threat and Its Implications for the United States,” p. 5.

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