The outbreak of the Ebola virus, which first appeared in 1976, has claimed the lives of more than 30,000 people. Some scientists agree the mortality rate of the disease has been better than 50 percent. Scientists doubt they can completely prevent the virus from spreading.
The 2009 H1N1 pandemic of swine flu has killed nearly 40,000 people. The infection claimed the lives of at least 4 million people in 2009 alone. If these two epidemics prove anything, it is that health care professionals are not able to quickly identify a disease and spread the word to the general public.
Now consider this: the flu epidemic of 1957 killed nearly 500,000 people worldwide. In addition, nearly 1 million people were hospitalized due to the flu epidemic of 1968.
By 1972, the flu pandemic of the year 1968 had claimed an estimated 1.7 million lives, and by that same year, it is estimated that 4 million people had died due to swine flu.
So what happened to the problem of morbidity and mortality?
Consider the swine flu pandemic of 2009. According to World Health Organization estimates, 68 million people worldwide became ill due to the outbreak. Of these, 6 million were hospitalized and 11,000 people died. Of the 27,000 deaths in the United States, almost 80 percent were not due to influenza itself.
There were no other infectious diseases that turned as deadly as swine flu.
The problem: with a list of everything from malaria to tuberculosis to tuberculosis, there was simply not enough attention paid to finding cures or eliminating the threat of a pandemic. One person in 44,000 died from the very contagious 1918 flu pandemic. It will be too easy to see how the vaccines for the Ebola virus and its strains will fail.
We need to treat all infectious diseases as a health hazard, not as a disease within a disease. These diseases, due to their ubiquity and the ease of detecting and reporting, should be treated the same way the flu vaccine is.
Immunization should be recommended by our health insurance providers and doctors and given to everyone, including the most unvaccinated. In addition, our health workers should be trained in methods of identifying infection and develop quick tests to determine the proper course of treatment.
Our health care delivery system should systematically screen all of the millions of people in our country for tuberculosis and cholera. Both are highly contagious, deadly, and both are easily spread at hospitals and schools.
One way to increase the effectiveness of vaccines is by making them more effective. One thing that vaccines have not worked on are specific diseases like polio, which could otherwise have been eradicated worldwide.
We need to learn from the experience of other countries and nations that have recognized the dangers posed by infectious diseases. For example, the WHO successfully directed focused treatment and vaccination efforts to protect entire communities against the deadly yellow fever virus. Yellow fever currently kills more than 5,000 people every year.
As we continue to study and understand this ancient virus, scientists are already working to develop a vaccine. And scientists are currently testing a new vaccine for yellow fever that is currently awaiting FDA approval.
“Yellow fever has killed almost two million people since the 1800s,” said Dan Salomone, MD, Director of the International Vaccine Access Center at Vaccine Access, a public-private research institute based in Amsterdam. “Vaccines are one of the best ways to keep it from killing even more people.”
The need to improve the effectiveness of our vaccines is not just for the prevention of the extremely deadly diseases of the past.
Now, when we’re dealing with people at a poverty-stricken country, the World Health Organization has mandated that all health care providers in the impoverished countries to get vaccinated against yellow fever.
In response to the lethal pandemic of yellow fever, the WHO is currently involved in countries both large and small to help with the vaccination efforts and benefit from proper communications.
According to Fred Hauptman, an epidemiologist with UNICEF, WHO’s working on a global agenda on vaccines that will build a paradigm for global action that is going to help us break the cycle of poverty and allow those who live in poverty to receive the life-saving vaccines.
There is a lot of work to be done, but hopefully, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other health agencies, and our political leaders are going to make it happen.
For now, we need to focus our time and efforts on a worldwide vaccine regime for Yellow Fever and the eradication of other diseases that are dangerous to our health.
Laura Adams is the executive director of Mercola.com.