Emerging Infectious Diseases

Emerging Infectious Diseases

What are emerging infectious diseases?

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, emerging infectious diseases are commonly defined as:

Emerging diseases include HIV infections, SARS, Lyme disease, Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli), hantavirus, dengue fever, and West Nile virus.

Re-emerging diseases are diseases that reappear after they have been on a significant decline. Re-emergence may happen because of a breakdown in public health measures for diseases that were once under control. They can also happen when new strains of known pathogens appear. Human behavior affects re-emergence. For example, overuse of antibiotics has led to drug-resistant pathogens and allowed a return of diseases that once were able to be treated with drugs.

Re-emerging diseases include malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, pertussis, influenza, pneumococcal disease, and gonorrhea.

Travelers should be aware that some diseases thought to be under control in the United States may be experiencing an outbreak in other countries. Ask for information and take precautions before being exposed to one of these diseases.

What is the risk of emerging infectious diseases?

Traveling abroad can put you at risk for infectious diseases that are not widespread in the United States. Travelers who become ill in a country where treatment for these diseases may be somewhat limited are even more at risk. All people planning travel should become informed about the potential hazards of the countries they are traveling to and learn how to minimize their risk of acquiring these diseases.

Why are travel-related infectious diseases on the rise?

It is believed that increased global travel is the reason for the recent resurgence of many infectious diseases in the United States. The number of people traveling internationally is increasing every year, and more people are taking trips to remote parts of the world, which often have unfamiliar health problems with underdeveloped health care services. Many travelers are also unaware of potential hazards in different parts of the world and do not take the necessary precautions, such as getting necessary vaccines or preventive medicine.

Many of the newly discovered infections have actually been in existence for a long time, but doctors have not seen them in areas where new outbreaks occur. With people's ability today to travel anywhere in the world within 36 hours or less, formerly little-known infections are picked up and rapidly spread to areas where they previously did not exist.

How can travelers minimize their risk from infectious diseases?

Travel abroad does not need to result in an illness from infectious diseases. Taking these measures can help minimize the risk to people traveling internationally:

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