China’s bird flu outbreak no cause for panic: WHO

(Reuters) – A strain of bird flu that has been found in humans for the first time in eastern China is no cause for panic, the World Health Organization said on Monday, as the number of people infected rose to 24, with seven deaths.

A boy looks at pigeons at a public park in People Square, downtown Shanghai April 6, 2013. REUTERS-Aly Song

BEIJING | Mon Apr 8, 2013 7:54am EDT

WHO praised China for mobilising resources nationwide to combat the H7N9 flu strain by culling tens of thousands of birds and monitoring hundreds of people close to those infected.

“So far, we really only have sporadic cases of a rare disease, and perhaps it will remain that way. So this is not a time for over-reaction or panic,” said WHO representative Michael O’Leary.

The head of China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission, Li Bin, said on Sunday she was confident authorities could contain the virus. [ID:nL3N0CU0AF]

“These are a relatively small number of serious cases with personal health, medical implications, but not at this stage known public health implications,” O’Leary told reporters.

But he warned that information on the virus was still incomplete.

“We really can’t rely on information from other viruses. H7N9 is a new virus in humans and the pattern that it follows cannot be predicted by the patterns that we have from other influenza viruses,” O’Leary said.

No cases have yet been reported outside of China, he said.

The Shanghai government said on its official microblog on Monday that a 64-year-old man had become the latest victim as the number of infected has risen daily.

In total, 621 close contacts of the people known to have been infected were being monitored and had yet to show symptoms of infection, the director of China’s H7N9 prevention and control office, Liang Wannian, said.

Authorities have said there is no evidence of transmission between humans.

The bird flu outbreak has caused global concern and some Chinese internet users and newspapers have questioned why it took so long for the government to announce the new cases, especially as two of the victims fell ill in February.

Airline shares have fallen in Europe and in Hong Kong over fears that the new virus could be lead to an epidemic like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which emerged in China in 2002 and killed about 10 percent of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide.

Chinese authorities initially tried to cover up the SARS outbreak.

In the H7N9 case, it had said it needed time to identify the virus, with cases spread between eastern Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Anhui provinces.

Chinese authorities have countered speculation that the H7N9 outbreak is related to more than 16,000 pig carcasses found dumped in rivers around Shanghai and the WHO has said some dead pigs from the rivers tested negative for influenza infection.

Other strains of bird flu, such as H5N1, have been circulating for many years and can be transmitted from bird to bird, and bird to human, but not generally from human to human.

Bangladesh on Monday reported its first H5N1 death, that of a baby, in February. It had taken that long to identify the strain.

(Editing by Nick Macfie)


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Diseases That Threaten Humanity

 An American policeman wearing a mask to protect himself from the outbreak of Spanish flu following World War I, ca. 1918. (Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

While it’s impossible to calculate the odds of a disease wiping out humanity (Are they better or worse than an asteroid hitting earth? What about a robot uprising?), this staple subject of both page and screen contains a kernel of truth. There are diseases out there in the world that pose a substantial risk to humankind. There are diseases that have attacked us already, killing millions upon millions. What follows are five diseases that, given the perfect, deadly mutation and the right push could lay siege to humanity.

And at the the end of this list there’s a kind of bonus: a disease that once would have been listed here, which ravaged humankind, killing upwards of 300 million people in the 20th century alone. But decades ago humanity struck back, eradicating it from the face of the earth.


It’s believed that flu pandemics have occurred throughout human history, when especially nasty strains of influenza virus spread globally. The deadliest of these waves that we know about was the 1918 “Spanish” flu outbreak that according to infected between 20 and 40 percent of the worldwide population and killed approximately 50 million people. With its high mutation rate and ability to spread easily, the flu virus remains a constant risk to humanity. Just as recently as 2009, the H1N1 strain of flu is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of people. 

While the flu shot is not perfect – this year’s version was less effective for the elderly for reasons that are unclear – the CDC recommends that everyone over the age of six months old get a flu shot.


 Extensively Drug Resistant Tuberculosis is a type of tuberculosis that is resistant to various antibiotics. (CDC)

One of humanity’s best weapons against infectious disease could ultimately be the cause of a major threat to us: Superbugs. Superbugs are bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotic drugs. Recently, Sally Davies, the U.K.’s chief medical officer, described the danger posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria as “apocalyptic.”

“There are few public health issues of potentially greater importance for society than antibiotic resistance,” Davies told the UK newspaper The Guardian.

The types of bacteria that have become untreatable by antibiotics range from strains of staphylococcus, a common bacteria that usually causes minor skin infections, if anything, to the sexually-transmitted disease gonorrhea. And experts warn that there are not enough new antibiotics coming to market for humanity to keep up in this evolutionary arms race.


 This colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) revealed some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion. (CDC)
 The stuff of nightmares: a disease that causes massive internal bleeding and reportedly kills more than half of the people it infects. Ebola, named after the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where it was discovered, perhaps entered the public consciousness with the publication of Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone. The book recounts – in graphic detail – what happens during an Ebola outbreak. 

The good news is that Ebola appears to be a blood-borne pathogen, making it significantly more difficult to transmit than air-borne diseases like the flu. The bad news is that the virus’s “natural reservoir” – the animals it calls host when it’s not cutting down humans – is unknown (scientists reportedly think the likeliest candidate is bats).


 Two Chinese girls wear masks to protect themselves from SARS on a street April 24, 2003, in Shanghai, China. (Kevin Lee/Getty Images)

This respiratory disease caused by the SARS coronavirus came to the public’s attention in 2003, with a concerted public awareness campaign conducted by health organizations around the world. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, and the disease demonstrated, according to the Mayo Clinic, “how quickly infection can spread in a highly mobile and interconnected world.”

The 2003 outbreak spread to more than two-dozen countries, infecting about 8000 people worldwide, according to the CDC.  The disease killed approximately 10 percent of the people infected, according to Harvard Magazine, and, because its symptoms mimicked that of the cold of flu, experts worried it would spread undetected. Ultimately, the spread of the disease was curbed by an aggressive public health campaign, but, worryingly, a different coronovirus has emerged in recent months, and has caused six confirmed fatalities.


 A microscopic view of stained anthrax bacteria in an undated photo from the Command at Fort Detrick, Md. (U.S. Army Medical Research and Development/Getty Images)
 Not every threat in this list comes direct from Mother Nature. Anthrax’s danger lies in its potential as a biological weapon. While dealing with infected animals or animal products is the most common natural cause, the bacteria can be grown in a lab setting and so this disease has been actively researched for use as a weapon. According the BBC, an accidental release of anthrax spores at a Soviet military lab in 1979 sickened 79 and killed 68.

The disease comes in three types, depending on how one catches it, according to the CDC. It can infect the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, or, in its most deadly form, the lungs. About half the cases of inhaled anthrax result in death.


The success story on this list – as far as humanity is concerned, anyway – smallpox is the only disease that has been driven extinct due to a concerted effort by humankind (although the guinea worm could be next). This killer of millions was known throughout much of human history – and is believed to have been responsible for one-third of all cases of blindness until its eradication. It was vanquished in 1980 through a vaccination campaign headed by WHO. Smallpox caused severe rash, sores and fever and killed nearly a third of those who contracted it before it was wiped out.

Perhaps there’s reason to be (cautiously) optimistic. But there are a couple of samples stashed away for government research.


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Swine flu cases resistant to Tamiflu are becoming more common, say scientists

Strains of drug-resistant flu are said to be able to pass from one human to another


Tamiflu, which was stockpiled in Britain and other countries in case of a swine flu pandemic. Photograph: Michael Probst/AP


Increasing numbers of cases of swine flu are being detected that are resistant to Tamiflu, the drug the UK and rest of the world stockpiled to fight a pandemic, according to scientists calling for greater global monitoring.

Even more worryingly, these strains of flu are appearing in patients who have never been treated with the drug, which means the strains are able to pass from one human to another.

Tamiflu, generic name oseltamivir, is one of the few treatments available for pandemic swine flu, although it is thought to be of limited effectiveness. The reluctance of the manufacturer Roche to release all the trial data has made it difficult to ascertain how limited. Nonetheless the drug can save lives if used early in the course of the illness.

Resistance to the drug has been shown before, but the new Australian data on its steady growth and the apparently easy transfer from one person to another of Tamiflu-resistant flu strains will alarm public health experts.

The data comes from Dr Aeron Hurt, of the World Health Organisation collaborating centre for reference and research on influenza in Melbourne. He and his colleagues have found that approximately 2% of H1N1pdm09/swine flu cases are resistant to Tamiflu. While that is not large, an increasing proportion of the patients have never been treated with the drug – so they have contracted a form of flu that is already resistant to it.

In 2011, the team detected the most widespread cluster to date of Tamiflu-resistant H1N1 swine flu cases in Newcastle, New South Wales. This, they say, is further evidence of the ability of this drug-resistant strain to circulate in the community.

Tamiflu-resistant strains of H1N1pdm09 have been identified in Europe but only on an ad hoc basis, said Hurt. “However, the trend observed in Australia of a greater proportion of resistant cases being detected in untreated community patients is also being observed both in the USA and Europe,” he said.

Hurt, who presented his findings to the annual scientific meeting of the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases in Canberra, said animal studies had confirmed that the latest drug-resistant strains could be passed on more easily than drug-resistant strains in the past.

“Sustained global monitoring for the emergence of resistance is important to underpin public health and guidance for clinical management. Surveillance schemes should assess frequency of resistance in the community and in specific patient groups receiving treatment, such as severely immunocompromised, seriously ill patients in hospital, and patients not responding to antiviral therapy,” said Hurt.

“Further studies to better understand influenza-virus infections in these patients and to improve antiviral treatment strategies are needed.”


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Is this antibiotic apocalypse?

We need to heed the chief medical officer’s warning about drug-resistant bacteria, says Michael Hanlon

English: Magnified 20,000X, this colorized sca...

English: Magnified 20,000X, this colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) depicts a grouping of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria. See PHIL 617 for a black and white view of this image. These S. aureus bacteria are methicillin-resistant, and are from one of the first isolates in the U.S. that showed increased resistance to vancomycin as well. Note the increase in cell wall material seen as clumps on the organisms’ surface. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine a world where a scratch would strike terror into your soul. A place where giving birth is a life-and-death experience, where every sore throat and stomach upset is potentially lethal. A world where almost no surgeon will operate unless the only alternative is certain death, and where chemotherapy is too deadly to contemplate. This could be our awful future, according to Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Government’s chief medical officer. She has warned that the world faces an antibiotic apocalypse, a “ticking time bomb”, and a “catastrophic threat to the population” as medicine faces the prospect of losing probably the most powerful weapon in its armoury – the effective antibiotic.

The tragedy is that this is a disaster of our own making. Thanks to a combination of profligacy, wilful stupidity, the laziness of thousands of doctors, and the selfish persistence of millions of patients in demanding instant cures for minor illnesses that would go away on their own, simple bacterial infections could once again become the scourge of humanity.

When antibiotics were developed in the 1930s and 1940s, doctors found themselves equipped with cheap, safe and effective miracle drugs that transformed the prognoses of millions of patients. The first penicillin antibiotics were incredibly effective against a host of diseases, such as tuberculosis, and in fighting off myriad infections caught through bacterial transmission or as a result of accidental or surgical wounds.

In the Forties, Fifties and Sixties, it seemed that the germs had no answers to penicillin and other wonder drugs, which along with sanitation and vaccination, were responsible for adding years, and then decades, to life expectancies across the planet. When one bacterial species proved to be resistant to the antibiotic armageddon being rained down upon it, new drugs would emerge from the pharmaceutical laboratories, synthesised and semi-synthetic versions of natural compounds produced by species of fungus (such as Penicillium itself and Acremonium).

The hardiest bacteria, such as E. coli, held their ground until a new class of antibiotics, the carbapenems, was developed in the 1980s. These were the hydrogen bombs of the antibiotic world, able to outwit the cleverest evolutionary and molecular tricks of our bacterial foes.

But in the last two decades, we’ve had a problem. No antibiotic, however potent, is ever completely effective. Like that disinfectant which “kills 99 per cent of germs”, it is the one per cent that survive which you have to worry about.

Bacteria reproduce, by dividing, at an alarming, exponential rate. One becomes two becomes millions in days. Amid this frenzied asexual promiscuity, the bacterial genome gets the chance to be endlessly tweaked and modified. As with most mutations, these alterations will usually be either fatal or unremarkable. But a few will, by chance, confer upon the microbe the ability to see off the best the medicine can do – including the carbapenems that may have turned out to be our weapon of last resort.

In the late 1990s, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a germ resistant to both the penicillin-based and cephalosporin antibiotics, emerged. It rapidly became the scourge of our hospitals. Most strains of MRSA are almost impossible to treat and the only line of defence (as our hospital managers have belatedly realised) is better hygiene.

Then, in the late Noughties, a new “indestructible” germ emerged from India, an E. coli gut bacterium modified by a gene called NDM-1 (New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase-1). Worryingly, the DNA responsible for the mutation has been found to be capable of being transmitted easily to other species of bacteria.

This sad story is a version of the “tragedy of the commons” – a disaster that occurs when an action beneficial to an individual causes great harm to the community. The main cause of the antibiotic apocalypse has been overprescribing, which increases the exposure of bacteria in the population as a whole to the drug in question, and gives these microbes more opportunity to evolve resistance.

For half a century, the mildly ill, the hypochondriacal and the worried well have demanded – and often been given – antibiotics to treat bacterial infections that are so mild they will be dealt with in a few days by the body’s immune system. Worse, many have taken antibiotics for illnesses – such as colds and influenza – that are not caused by bacteria but by viruses, which are immune to antibiotics. Such over-prescription greatly increased the chance of resistance emerging. And while antibiotic overuse has declined in the West, it has exploded in India and China, where the drugs are usually sold prescription-free.

Another major cause is the massive quantity of antibiotics fed to livestock. Cattle, pigs and chickens are not just given the drugs to cure illness, but for their side effects, which include their ability to stimulate growth.

Although banned in the EU, such prophylactic use is common across the world – so common that in the United States, it is hard for farmers to obtain feed that does not contain these drugs. As well as increasing exposure to antibiotics generally, there is the risk that drug-resistant strains may enter the human population through food.

Finally, we have not seen a new class of antibiotics since 1987. It does not make sense for drug companies to spend huge amounts creating a low-profit drug that may only be effective for weeks, until the bacteria evolve a new line of defence. Leaving the development of drugs to market forces is proving to be an ineffective and inefficient way of improving the medical arsenal.

So is the antibiotic apocalypse inevitable, or as big a risk to our society, as Sally Davies warns, as international terrorism?

Not necessarily. New rules are needed to discourage, even penalise, overprescribing. According to Professor Richard James, an expert in bacterial infections at the University of Nottingham, it might be worth exploring “economic measures, such as a tax on antibiotic use, to prevent [this] tragedy of the commons scenario”; the income from such a tax could be channelled into new research.

Global co-operation is also needed. Countries where antibiotics are available over the counter need to change their laws to stop the practice. Antibiotic resistance is exacerbated by international travel, so we need more screening at airports. We need new ways to encourage drug firms to invest in antibiotics. And we need all this fast – otherwise, our children will wonder why our generation and the generation before squandered one of the greatest advances in health and wellbeing ever stumbled upon by humanity.


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New wave of ‘superbugs’ poses dire threat, says chief medical officer

Warning over rising death toll as antibiotics fail to tackle rising incidence of ‘gram negative’ bacterial diseases


Few antibiotics remain effective against drug-resistant strains of ‘gram negative’ bacteria. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria with the potential to cause untreatable infections pose “a catastrophic threat” to the population, the chief medical officer warns in a report calling for urgent action worldwide.

If tough measures are not taken to restrict the use of antibiotics and no new ones are discovered, said Dame Sally Davies, “we will find ourselves in a health system not dissimilar to the early 19th century at some point”.

While antibiotics are failing, new bacterial diseases are on the rise. Although the “superbugs” MRSA and C difficile have been reduced to low numbers in hospitals, there has been an alarming increase in other types of bacteria including new strains of E coli and Klebsiella, which causes pneumonia.

These so-called “gram negative” bacteria, which are found in the gut instead of on the skin, are highly dangerous to older and frailer people and few antibiotics remain effective against drug-resistant strains.

As many as 5,000 patients die each year in the UK of gram negative sepsis – where the bacterium gets into the bloodstream – and in half the cases the bacterium is resistant to drugs.

“Antimicrobial resistance poses a catastrophic threat,” said Davies. “If we don’t act now, any one of us could go into hospital in 20 years for minor surgery and die because of an ordinary infection that can’t be treated by antibiotics. And routine operations like hip replacements or organ transplants could be deadly because of the risk of infection.

“That’s why governments and organisations across the world, including the World Health Organisation and G8, need to take this seriously.”

There has been an 85% reduction in MRSA (methicillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus), which has meant that many large, acute hospitals have no more than two or three cases a year. But there are now 50 to 100 cases of gram-negative bacteria infection for every MRSA case, according to Professor Mike Sharland of St George’s hospital in London, an adviser to the Department of Health on the use of antimicrobials (antibiotics and antivirals) in children.

“This is your own gut bugs turning on you. Between 10% and 20% are resistant to drugs. We do not yet know why they are on the rise, although some hospital procedures, such as the use of catheters, may be implicated. Many are in the very young or older population,” he said.

“There is a lot of work going on through Public Health England and the Department of Health to try to work out why it has suddenly risen.” In the second volume of her annual report, Davies calls for politicians to treat the threat of the new bugs and the failing antibiotics as seriously as they did MRSA. She wants action across government departments – involving the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in particular – because of the use of antibiotics in farming.

She is asking for the threat to be added to the government’s strategic risk register, which will make it easier to raise as an issue abroad. Drug resistance is a global problem as the resistant strains of bacteria travel the world.

Multi drug-resistant TB and even some cases of extremely drug-resistant TB (only treatable with difficulty and with last-line antibiotics) have come to Britain.

Antibiotics fail because bacteria develop resistance to the drugs over time. In the decades after the invention of penicillin it did not seem to be a problem because drug companies developed new versions. But no new classes of drugs have been discovered since 1987 and the pipeline has now dried up.

Davies wants to find ways to give the pharmaceutical industry incentives to invest in finding new antibiotics. Most companies have given up because the search has become hard and, because resistance always develops, their lifespan is not long, so there is not much profit to be made.

The sort of incentives that could be offered have not yet been decided, but Davies praised the Innovative Medicines Initiative in Europe, a new public/private partnership. Other recommendations in the report include more education for medical students and qualified staff on the use of antibiotics and encouragement for women to be vaccinated where appropriate in pregnancy, for instance to protect their baby against whooping cough.

The Department of Health said it would shortly publish a five-year action plan to tackle the issues of antibiotic resistance raised in the report, which will include measures to ensure the drugs are prescribed only when they are needed.

Experts warmly welcomed the report. But Richard James, former director of the centre for healthcare associated infections at the University of Nottingham, pointed out that the UK could not solve the problem on its own and global action in countries where antibiotics are over-used, wrongly used and can sometimes – even in southern Europe – be bought over the counter, was vital.

“Anyone reading the report will realise that there are no magic bullets,” he said. “The majority of the 17 recommendations relate to actions in the UK alone but there is acknowledgment of the requirement for the UK government to campaign for this issue to be given higher priority internationally.”

He suggested exploring the use of a tax on antibiotic use and also measures to encourage the developments of alternatives by small biotechnology companies and universities, such as vaccines.

Laura Piddock, professor of microbiology and deputy director of the institute of microbiology and infection at the University of Birmingham and director of Antibiotic Action, said she was glad Davies was drawing political attention to the antibiotic discovery void.

“However, there are an increasing number of infections for which there are virtually no therapeutic options, and we desperately need new discovery, research and development; the UK is extremely well-placed to do basic discovery and research for new antibacterial molecules,” she said.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said Davies was right to raise concern. “Antimicrobial resistance is a serious and growing problem,” said chief executive Stephen Whitehead, noting the Innovative Medicines Initiative in Europe. “There are, however, pharmaceutical companies actively involved in researching and developing new antimicrobial medicines.

“But more still needs to be done and we believe that for there to be a continual supply of effective antibiotics, a comprehensive review of the R&D [research and development] environment and good stewardship are required urgently.”


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Once-defeated disease now surging, lethal for 60 percent of those infected

A member of Congress who for more than 30 years worked as a doctor says the baggage that illegal aliens are bringing into the United States now is killing people.

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, told WND that it’s not suitcases, clothes or the like – it’s the highly infectious cases of drug-resistant and lethal tuberculosis that are walking across the Mexican border.

“It is something I am aware of and it is definitely a factor to consider in the immigration debate,” Burgess said.

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that generally attacks the lungs, although it can attack any part of the body. The disease is easily spread when an infected individual coughs, sneezes or even talks in the presence of another person. If not properly treated the disease can be fatal.

The disease has been around since ancient times and tuberculosis was once the leading cause of death in America. Among the disease’s victims was the legendary Doc Holiday, who died in a tuberculosis ward in Colorado Springs.

While the 20th century development of antibiotics resulted in the disease being virtually eradicated in America by the 1960s, in recent years TB has been making a comeback with new strains that are resistant to most antibiotics.

Last week it was reported that a persistent strain of tuberculosis had developed in some Los Angeles neighborhoods. Officials said as many as 4,500 people may have been exposed to the disease.

The Los Angeles Times reported the strain appeared to be unique to the region and concentrated among the homeless. Because TB is highly contagious, there is a potential for a widespread outbreak as homeless individuals often move around from place to place.

Last week officials advised police to wear protective surgical masks while dealing with suspects or members of the public who may have been exposed to the disease.

Los Angeles is not the only major city to have problems with the disease. Since 2008, Jacksonville, Fla., has suffered from a TB outbreak that officials with the Center for Disease Control said was among the worst seen in 20 years.

Despite the outbreak’s severity, the public was not informed of the danger until months after the CDC began tracking it. The reason given was the authorities felt they had the disease contained in 2008, despite cases being reported in other parts of the state.

Besides California and Florida, the states with the greatest number of multi-drug-resistant TB are Texas and New York, all having large numbers of illegal aliens within their borders. Florida was recently ranked as having the third largest illegal alien population by the Department of Homeland Security. Many illegals in Florida come from the Caribbean and other countries in the Southern Hemisphere, some of which have widespread problems with tuberculosis.

Last month, My San Antonio reported U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement agents had captured an illegal alien from Asia who was captured while trying to cross the Mexican border Nov. 27. The man was diagnosed with extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, the least treatable form of the disease.

See a video on the issue:

In the past, WND has reported on the dangers caused to the U.S. medical system by illegal aliens with drug-resistant strains of diseases including tuberculosis. A report in the Spring 2005 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons warned how the influx of illegal aliens threatened to destroy the American medical system.

“By default, we grant health passes to illegal aliens,” wrote Madeleine Peiner Cosman, author of the report. “Yet many illegal aliens harbor fatal diseases that American medicine fought and vanquished long ago, such as drug-resistant tuberculosis, malaria, leprosy, plague, polio, dengue, and Chagas disease.”

“Many illegals who cross our borders have tuberculosis. That disease had largely disappeared from America, thanks to excellent hygiene and powerful modern drugs such as isoniazid and rifampin. TB’s swift, deadly return now is lethal for about 60 percent of those infected because of new Multi-Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR- TB). Until recently MDR-TB was endemic to Mexico.”

Burgess pledges that he will take steps to make sure the issue of illegal aliens introducing drug-resistant strains of these diseases is addressed as the House considers any immigration bills.

“This is something I am going to push for us to look at in the Oversight Committee on Energy and Commerce,” Burgess told WND. “The issue came up a couple of years ago in late 2010. We had some hearings a couple of years ago but it is time to ask some questions again.”

WND columnist Barbara Simpson wrote about the issue recently.

“Who’s in charge of this stupidity?” she wrote. “No immigrant should be allowed in this country without a complete health check.”


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Infectious Diseases….A Persistent Threat

The Challenge | The Response  | Opportunities for U.S. Engagement


The Challenge

Worldwide, infectious diseases are the leading cause of death of children and adolescents, and one of the leading causes in adults.

Three of the top ten causes of death, or sixteen percent of all deaths each year, are from infectious diseases . Most of these deaths are in low- and middle-income countries and are attributable to preventable or treatable diseases such as diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. While significant advances have been made in interventions to prevent and treat most of these diseases, those interventions are often unavailable to the populations most in need.


The Response

Over the past century, the public health community has enjoyed periodic major successes in the control and elimination of infectious diseases.

Annual Deaths (in millions)

Disease Deaths
Respiratory Infections 3.9
Malaria 1.3 – 3.0
Diarrheal Diseases 1.8
Tuberculosis 1.7
Neglected Tropical Diseases 0.5

In one of public health’s greatest victories, smallpox was eradicated in 1977. The smallpox effort was aided by committed medical and political leadership, an inexpensive vaccine that was relatively simple to administer, and a strong surveillance system that allowed rapid detection and containment of outbreaks.

Between 2000 and 2006, global measles incidence decreased by 91%, and incidence of Chagas Disease in Latin America decreased by over 70% from 1983 to 2000. More recently, the effort to eradicate Guinea worm (dracunculiasis) has accelerated and is now close to completion.

However, the global polio eradication program, intended for completion by 2000, has fallen victim to political and civil unrest in Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Vaccine Preventable Diseases

Vaccines play a critical role in reducing childhood mortality with an estimated 7.5 million lives saved over the last ten years.

Increased routine vaccination for measles, bacterial meningitis, tetanus, diphtheria, polio, pertussis, yellow fever and rotavirus greatly improved with better coordination, discrete budget sources and additional outside funding from groups like the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI). For newly introduced vaccines and old, efforts must focus on further increasing routine coverage of immunization through the broad array of strategies that have proved themselves successful, including targeted community campaigns, child health days and immunization weeks.

Diarrhea and respiratory infections are the two most common causes of pediatric deaths. Infectious diseases can also impair physical and mental development among survivors. Malaria during pregnancy can result in low-birthweight babies and cognitive defects. Parasitic infections can lead to malnutrition, stunted growth and chronic pain.

World Health Organization, The Global Burden of Disease 2004 Update, Geneva: 2009    Read More…..


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