Drug-resistant exotic diseases are coming to a town near you

Drug-resistant exotic diseases are coming to a town near you

West Nile virus is a perfect example of how a deadly foreign disease can cross international borders and directly affect Americans. First recognized in the Uganda in 1977, West Nile virus is carried by birds and transmitted to humans through mosquito or tick bites. It has also been transmitted through blood transfusions and organ transplants. Since its discovery in the northeastern part of the United States in 1999, an increasing number of people have died.

West Nile virus is one in a growing number of imported exotic diseases making its way around the world. Hantavirus outbreaks in the southwestern United States and the threat of the deadly Ebola virus are causing concern.

Once thought to be completely eradicated, tuberculosis (TB) is making a quick comeback in hospitals and clinics around the country. TB, a bacterial lung infection that can be fatal, is thought to have been brought into the country from mass emigrations from Third World countries. One of the tests for TB involves injecting a small amount of live bacteria under the skin. Some health care workers have quietly noted that a person stands a one-in-ten chance of contracting the disease through this type of test.

When people with TB are given medication, they begin to feel better and discontinue treatment. Oftentimes, however, TB will return–this time resistant to drugs.

Infectious diseases threaten people in every corner of the globe. In the United States, infectious diseases such as influenza and malaria rank as the third highest cause of death, behind only cancer and heart disease.

In 1993, a hantavirus outbreak killed 58 people in the area where Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona meet. Since then, infected people have been identified in almost every state. Hantavirus causes severe lung and kidney infections and is spread by inhaling dust particles that have come in contact with saliva, feces, or urine of certain kinds of infected mice. Common house mice have not shown signs that they are carriers, and there is no evidence that hantavirus can be spread from person to person.

Currently, there is no vaccine or specific treatment, although immediate intensive care has allowed some people to make a full recovery. The most effective way to prevent infection is to make sure that your living area is rodent-free. If you have to sweep up droppings, wear a protective mask and rubber gloves. Also, steer clear of rodent droppings in the wild.

Although the risk of contracting one of these exotic diseases remains small, in order to reduce your risk of infection it is necessary to be fully aware of how they are spread.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Vegetus Publications

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group