Tags: Ebola Outbreak | ebola | dengue | hantavirus | Chikungunya

5 Diseases That Are Scarier Than Ebola

By    |   Friday, 17 October 2014 04:27 PM

Americans are focused on the threat from Ebola, but a top infectious disease expert warns that other serious exotic viral illnesses have at least as much potential to spread in the U.S.
 
“There are diseases which, like Ebola, have originated in wildlife and then breached that barrier and made the leap to humans,” David Sanders, one of the nation’s top Ebola experts, told Newsmax Health.
 
Some of these threats are just emerging, while others have been known for years but pose new risks because of environmental changes or increased travel across borders and to remote regions, he said.
 
“Diseases may start in Africa, but because of modern global travel, they no longer stay in Africa,” said Sanders, an associate professor of biologic sciences at Purdue University who has studied the possible use of Ebola as a biological weapon.
 
One major environmental change that favors the spread of some exotic diseases is the rise in mosquito populations because of global warming, he said.
 
“The human immune system is very good, but we haven’t been exposed to these diseases long enough to enable our immune system to learn to fight them,” said Sanders.
 
“I don’t like to panic people, but beyond Ebola there are emerging diseases that we should be aware of,” Sanders added.
 
Here are five diseases that he says could potentially gain a foothold in the U.S. and deserve the attention of health authorities:   
 
Dengue fever: Up to 400 million people worldwide get dengue fever annually. It is a painful and debilitating mosquito-borne viral disease. Some cases develop into dengue hemorrhagic fever, resulting in bleeding and possible death.
 
Dengue fever emerged as a worldwide threat in the 1950s, and it is widespread in Puerto Rico and many popular American tourist destinations in the Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.
 
Although it is still rare in the U.S., outbreaks have occurred in Arizona, Florida, and Texas. Climate change has spurred the disease northward as warmer weather prevents freezes that kill mosquitoes.
 
Chikungunya: Nicknamed “breaking bone” disease because of the excruciating joint pain it causes, Chikungunya is similar to dengue fever in that it is also carried by mosquitos. Although it is rarely fatal, recovery can take months for people of middle age and older. It originated in East Africa, spread to India and the Caribbean, and it is now endemic in Puerto Rico.  
 
Most of the U.S. cases have occurred in people who were infected in other countries, but 107 cases have been reported in Florida and it is now believed to be carried by mosquitoes there.  
 
Hantavirus: Hantavirus was discovered in the 1970s and is primarily spread through contact with infected rodents or their droppings. However, it can be spread through the air as humans breathe in the virus in the form of ultramicroscopic particles.
 
The virus can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a disease with a 36 percent death rate.  More chilling, there are reports of human-to-human transmission elsewhere in the world. There is no known treatment.
 
Rift Valley fever: While this disease can be mild, there is a serious form that has a 50 percent death rate. Humans get the disease from breathing the air around infected farm animals such as cows, sheep, and goats, which get the illness from mosquitos.
 
There is a human vaccine, but it is not widely available, and once infection occurs, there is no effective treatment.
 
Devastating outbreaks have occurred throughout Africa and the Arabian peninsula, where it has killed hundreds. U.S. agricultural officials worry it could be transported here.
 
Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever: Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever belongs to a group of diseases that kill in the same way as Ebola, through massive and sudden hemorrhaging.
 
Ticks spread Congo fever, which has up to a 40 percent death rate. Like Ebola, it can also be transmitted by contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is sick.
 
The disease is found in Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East, and Asia, but 1,000 cases a year are also now being reported in southeastern Europe and Turkey. There is a vaccine that is pending approval by the FDA.
 

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Americans are focused on the threat from Ebola, but a top infectious disease expert warns that other serious exotic viral illnesses have at least as much potential to spread in U.S. "There are diseases which, like Ebola, have originated in wildlife and then breached that...
ebola, dengue, hantavirus, Chikungunya
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2014-27-17
Friday, 17 October 2014 04:27 PM
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