A Quarter Century of Emerging Infectious Diseases – Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?
Keywords:Emerging Diseases, Public Health Policy, Globalization, Economic Development, Advances in Biotechnology
A quarter century ago the landmark report from the U. S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine entitled “Emerging Infections, Microbial Threats to Health in the United States” was released. This classic study captured the societal changes then underway in our rapidly growing world: The growth of the world’s population and changing human behavior; the advances and globalization of technology and industry; the changes in economic development and land use; the dramatic increase in speed and frequency of international travel and commerce; the adaptation of microbes and the appearance of never before seen pathogens; and the breakdown of traditional public health measures. This societal evolution has only increased and the growing frequency of outbreaks foretold in the report has come to pass. Each new disaster has precipitated changes and adaptations in our global response to infectious diseases designed to reduce risks and avoid future outbreaks. We discuss these past events and how each led to change in an effort to mitigate future threats. We also look to the future to consider what challenges might lay ahead.
Conclusion. Major outbreaks over the past quarter century validated the concept of emerging infectious diseases and led to improvements in global policies and national public health programs; however, there will likely always be new diseases and the threat of reemergence of diseases once thought controlled leading to a constant need for vigilance in public health preparedness.