Source: Yahoo Health
Since the first case cropped up in Texas, tracking Ebola has become something of an American obsession — and not a healthy one.
“The idea that Ebola will take over the United States is an unfounded fear,” says Dr. Liise-Anne Pirofski, chief of infectious diseases at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Because the incubation period is relatively brief — only 2 to 21 days — Ebola isn’t likely to spread undetected and suddenly emerge in vast numbers, adds Dr. Robert Schooley, chief of infectious diseases at the UC San Diego School of Medicine.
And the Ebola case in Texas? Dr. Schooley continues: “I think it was very much an exception. It’s a threat in any place that airplanes can land, but we have the means to prevent it from spreading. I don’t see Ebola as the biggest infectious-disease worry for the people that I take care of.”
So what should we be worried about? It’s tough to predict since it is the unpredictability of certain bacteria and viruses that often makes them so alarming, Dr. Schooley says. But there are some existing viruses and bacteria that pose an ongoing threat — and that you’re much more likely to catch than Ebola.
The flu doesn’t have an exotic, tropical-sounding name— and we are able to vaccinate against it with some degree of efficacy. Yet it is still a major killer in the United States. More people will die this winter from the flu than Ebola “particularly because we’re never able to predict with 100 percent certainty which strains will be circulating,” says Dr. Pirofski.
As recently as 2009, a strain emerged that wasn’t covered by the vaccine. And it didn’t confine itself to the very young and the elderly — an unusually high number of people in the prime of their life were affected. The reason: In some cases, young, healthy immune systems may respond too exuberantly to the flu virus, and the resulting inflammation may actually exacerbate the illness.
Resistant Staphylococcus (MRSA)
What exactly is MRSA? Simply put, it’s a strain of staph bacteria that doesn’t respond to the antibiotics traditionally used to treat the infection. There are an estimated 75,309 cases of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection in the United States, according to Centers For Disease Control (CDC) tracking data.
“Antibiotic resistance is a major threat,” says Dr. Pirofski. “By definition, these organisms can’t be controlled with existing therapies, and they are very entrenched in some of our larger cities and more advanced tertiary-care hospitals. You don’t have to go to West Africa to get them.” Although MRSA infections in hospitals are on the decline, a CDC study revealed that it is still capable of causing life-threatening infections there.
An estimated 820,000 new cases of gonorrhea crop up in the United States each year — and now, we’re grappling with a form of it that doesn’t respond to the treatments we’ve long relied on. The CDC calls it “an urgent threat,” estimating 246,000 cases of resistant gonorrhea each year. Alarmingly, many people, particularly women, who are infected don’t show any symptoms (or have only very mild ones), giving it the potential to easily spread.
Untreated gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in women. And, according to the CDC, it can spread to the blood, resulting in a potentially life-threatening condition which is characterized by arthritis, inflammation of the tissue covering tendons, and dermatitis.