How to Handle the Infectious Diseases Threat


Jun 3, 2016

A common mosquito

Photo by gordzam/Fotolia

This commentary originally appeared on CNN on June 3, 2016.

Back in 1999, unusually large numbers of dead crows in New York City signaled something was wrong. It turned out to be the arrival of West Nile virus in the United States, and today, the virus is endemic in the 48 contiguous states.

Since then, we've also seen Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in 2012, the deadly Ebola virus in 2014 and the mosquito-borne Zika virus that began spreading widely last year.

So, are these rapidly emerging widespread outbreaks anomalies? Or is this the new normal confronting the United States and other countries? A recent study offers some hints at the answer.

The 2014 study, “Global Rise in Human Infectious Disease Outbreaks,” examined changes in the frequency of outbreaks of infectious disease between 1980 and 2013. The findings confirmed earlier reports that the number of outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases is growing...

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Daniel M. Gerstein works at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation. He was the former Under Secretary (Acting) and Deputy Under Secretary in the Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security from 2011 to 2014.

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