Attention to New Diseases, Complacency Allowing Older Diseases To Spread, Researchers Say
Complacency is allowing some treatable and preventable diseases such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and syphilis to "flourish," as public attention turns to newer public health issues, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome and bioterrorist attacks, researchers attending CDC's International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta said this week, USA Today reports. Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, deputy director of CDC's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, said that the United States and other developed countries are experiencing a "resurgence of unsafe behaviors" and outbreaks of sexually transmitted diseases since the introduction of antiretroviral drugs and the emergence of a perception that "HIV is no longer a major threat." Researchers added that complacency is responsible in part for rising rates of HIV and syphilis in the United States among men who have sex with men. According to CDC's Peter Bloland, new treatments for malaria, which has grown resistant to the commonly used chloroquine, are effective but more expensive and not as readily available. Efforts to control TB cannot be sustained without political backing and funding, Thomas Frieden, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said (Manning, USA Today, 3/3). Three-fourths of the diseases that have emerged over the past 20 years -- including 11 of the 12 "most dangerous" bioterrorism agents -- originated in animals before infecting humans, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Dr. Lonnie King, dean of the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, said that a surveillance system to track the spread of disease microbes between animal species and humans is necessary for developing prevention strategies (McKenna, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.