Emerging Infectious Diseases

February 13, 2015 • Volume 25, Issue 7
Is an unstoppable global pandemic possible?
By Marcia Clemmitt


Family members mourn the death from Ebola of a child (Getty Images/The Washington Post/Nikki Kahn)
Family members mourn the death from Ebola of a child in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, on Nov. 23, 2014. The deadly virus struck West Africa in 2014, killing nearly 9,000 people. A few cases also surfaced in Spain, Great Britain and the United States. (Getty Images/The Washington Post/Nikki Kahn)

From the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa to a mysterious new illness that killed a Kansas farmer last summer, emerging infectious diseases — illnesses never seen before or that reappear in new places or with new severity — threaten people around the world. About five new infections emerge in humans each year, typically three crossing over from animals. Many new kinds of infections also strike wild and domestic animals. Fifty years ago many medical scientists believed widespread use of antibiotics and vaccines would all but eliminate infectious disease. But factors such as environmental change, population growth, poverty and globalization are spurring new, often deadly, infections. Disease scientists urge policymakers to pay much more attention to animal health and to boost funding for public-health agencies here and abroad, but many conservatives say more money is not the answer. Meanwhile, scientists are gaining new insights into the genetic makeup of disease-causing microbes, giving them hope of discovering more ways to prevent or fight infections.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Dec. 02, 2022  Long COVID
Oct. 29, 2021  COVID-19 Vaccines
Jan. 08, 2021  Health and Society
Nov. 20, 2020  The Public Health System
Jul. 17, 2020  The Pandemic Economy
Jun. 26, 2020  Zoonotic Diseases
May 08, 2020  CTE and Athletes
Jan. 24, 2020  Conquering Rare Diseases
Sep. 13, 2019  Measles Resurgence
Nov. 30, 2018  Obesity Crisis
Jun. 15, 2018  Superbug Threat
Jun. 02, 2017  Pandemic Threat
Jul. 22, 2016  Mosquito-Borne Disease
Feb. 13, 2015  Emerging Infectious Diseases
Nov. 08, 2013  Lyme Disease
Jan. 06, 2012  Preventing Disease
Apr. 02, 2010  Breast Cancer
Sep. 12, 2008  Heart Health
Aug. 24, 2007  Fighting Superbugs
Jan. 13, 2006  Avian Flu Threat
Jun. 20, 2003  Fighting SARS
Apr. 05, 2002  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Mar. 09, 2001  Diabetes Epidemic
Mar. 02, 2001  Mad Cow Disease
Dec. 24, 1999  Asthma Epidemic
Aug. 05, 1983  Multiple Sclerosis
May 27, 1983  Chronic Pain: The Hidden Epidemic
Sep. 24, 1976  Influenza Control
Sep. 16, 1970  Virus Research
Mar. 14, 1956  Progress Against Polio
May 25, 1955  Degenerative Diseases
May 25, 1949  Chronic Disease
Mar. 01, 1924  The Foot and Mouth Disease
Biology and Life Sciences
Global Issues
Humanitarian Assistance
Infectious Diseases
Medical Research and Advocacy