Fundamentals of Microbiology 11th Edition
Ebola, Zika – What’s Next?
The human race has experienced and felt the effects of new infectious diseases for millennia, even well before the discovery of the infectious agents responsible for such diseases. Today, however, despite extraordinary advances to eliminate or lessen the development and spread of infectious disease, their appearance continues—and indeed, it is inevitable. Recent examples of emerging diseases include HIV/ AIDS, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Ebola virus disease, and, most recently, Zika virus infection. Each of these unexpected illnesses has had a global impact on governments, economics, and society, and for Zika, even threatened the 2016 Summer Olympics.
The emergence of infectious diseases like Ebola and Zika is the result of several factors. Realize that more than 60% percent of new human infections originate in, or are transmitted by, wild animals, as is the case for all the diseases mentioned above— AIDS (apes and monkeys to humans), SARS and Ebola (bats [to other animals] to humans), and Zika (monkeys to mosquitoes to humans). Consequently, as human habitation spreads into more remote areas around the world, unknown infectious microbes in wild animals will “jump” to humans as these interacting species make contact. In addition, many of these infectious agents undergo rapid genetic changes, as exemplified by the AIDS and influenza viruses, and they can share genetic information as the influenza virus does every flu season. In some cases, this can make the infection more dangerous. Adding to these factors is the globalized world we live in today. Airline travel makes an infectious disease outbreak in one corner of the world only a day’s plane ride from almost any other destination on the globe. Accordingly, infectious diseases can “pop up” from seemingly nowhere.
The next emerging disease will have a differentname and different symptoms from Ebola and Zika, and it will come from another region of the world—but it and others are coming. Therefore, what we can (and must) do is recognize and react to these “infectious events” before they can cause an outbreak or epidemic. We need to be better prepared to deal with these events by managing better the next Ebola- or Zika-like emergence, something that was not done in the most recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa and Zika outbreak in Brazil. Preventing another outbreak/epidemic of a new infectious disease can be accomplished only by aggressive vigilance, continued research for detecting new infectious agents (surveillance tools, diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines), and rapidly deploying these countermeasures.
Each new emerging disease brings unique challenges, forcing the medical community to continually adapt to these ever-shifting threats. The battle against emerging infectious diseases is a continual process in trying to get ahead and stay ahead of the next infectious agent before it can explode on the world scene.
More than likely, you are planning a career in the healthcare field. As such, it is important that you understand how new infectious diseases come about. Therefore, I am excited and honored that you are using and reading this new, eleventh edition of
Fundamentals of Microbiology. I hope it is very useful in your studies and you come away from your course with a much better appreciation for the role that microorganisms play in the environment as well as with us. Always take time to read the sidebars (MicroFocus boxes) whether they are assigned or not. They will help in your overall microbiology experience and the realization that microorganisms do rule the world!
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