Oct. 30 --
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) -- At least 170,000 Americans die each year from infectious diseases, and that number could increase dramatically during a major disease outbreak.
That dire news was delivered in a report, Germs Go Global: Why Emerging Infectious Diseases Are a Threat to America, released Wednesday by the Trust for America's Health (TFAH).
Globalization, increased drug resistance, and climate change are among the factors contributing to the growing threat from infectious diseases, according to the report, which listed some major disease threats currently facing the United States, including:
"Infectious diseases are not just a crisis for the developing world. They are a real threat right here, right now to America," Jeffrey Levi, executive director of TFAH, said in a news release issued by the organization.
"Infectious diseases can come without warning, crossing borders, often before people even know they are sick. Americans are more vulnerable than we think we are, and our public health defenses are not as strong as they should be," Levi said.
The United States' defenses against emerging infectious diseases are inadequate, with shortcomings in surveillance, vaccines, testing and treatment, the report said. These deficiencies could lead to serious consequences for the nation's health system, economy and national security.
"The optimal preparedness for emerging, re-emerging and deliberately introduced infectious diseases requires a professionally trained and adequately funded public health infrastructure," Dr. Kathleen F. Gensheimer, state epidemiologist, division of infectious disease with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, said in the news release.
"Epidemics, pandemics and other public health emergencies require a solid public health laboratory diagnostic and epidemiological surveillance system to detect aberrance in disease trends, allowing rapid response and targeted preventive actions to be instituted in a timely fashion," she said.
The trust urged improvement of the nation's capabilities to fight emerging infectious diseases through a well-funded federal effort -- coordinated with international initiatives -- designed to encourage public-private advances in research, next-generation diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.
Among a series of recommendations, the report said the U.S. government should:
The Infectious Diseases Society of America has more about infectious diseases.
SOURCE: Trust for America's Health, news release, Oct. 29, 2008