Friday, September 20, 2013

CNN: CDC director: A disease outbreak anywhere is a risk everywhere

By Dr. Tom Frieden, Special to CNN
updated 7:23 AM EDT, Fri September 20, 2013
Editor's note: Dr. Tom Frieden is the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an expert in internal medicine, infectious diseases, public health and epidemiology.
A blind spot anywhere is a risk to us everywhere
Keeping people safe is the role of public health agencies such as the CDC -- a role that becomes even more important every day. We are all connected by the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat, and the next outbreak may be just a plane ride away.
The world faces a perfect storm of vulnerability. On average, we identify one previously unknown microbe each year. We're also finding that more and more infections are showing resistance to all available drugs. And the threat exists that sometime, somewhere, someone will unleash a deadly, genetically modified microbe for which we may have no warning and little preparation.
Since we can't predict where or when the next outbreak will happen, we have to be vigilant at all times.
For example, nothing has the potential to kill more people than influenza. A strain such as H7N9 could create a pandemic. When something with that much potential to cause widespread harm emerges, we must identify it in hours or days, not weeks or months. H7N9 doesn't yet spread from person to person, and it may never. But when it comes to new infectious diseases, the question is not whether, but when and where.

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