Industrial development and technological advances are those two items, which have prevailed throughout history, influencing the spread of the discussed disease significantly. In fact, the most representative example of their effect is malaria outbreak, which hits the workers of the Panama Canal, and how the authorities fought it taking into account different social and technological protectives. On the other hand, because of availability of ships or airplanes, there is no longer any disease, which could not be easily transmitted across the world. The observed TED video discussed the possibility of the bird flu pandemic, the causative agent of which apparently develops a number of mutations annually (TEDTalks). Hopefully, due to long history of contact with infectious agents and our immune system, people are much stronger today to stand any disease. However, we are still likely to become representatives of the risk groups for certain diseases. This research will rather focus on the recent trends observed for world diseases, which are associated with industrial development and technological advances.
Most of the new diseases, which have appeared within the recent two decades, with the exception of AIDS, did not pose the significant threat to the mankind. The spread of many diseases (such as influenza) can be controlled by preventing their transmission from person to person. Others, such as the Creutzfeldt-Jakob syndrome (better known as the “mad cow syndrome,”), whose causative agents are transmitted with food, may be controlled by the introduction and implementation of new health standards (TEDTalks). Some diseases, for example, West Nile fever, have low mortality rate and affect people belonging to the certain “risk groups” mainly. Other epidemics, such as Ebola fever and Congolese-Crimean fever, are geographically limited and not dangerous in most regions (TEDTalks). In contrast, atypical pneumonia has serious chances for becoming a new pandemic. The virus has an incubation period of 2 -10 days, during which the infected person and his/her environment do not experience any symptoms (TEDTalks). Besides, transmission of the causative agent from one person to another occurs fast enough.
The disease, which is known now as “the bird flu”, is an infectious disease of birds, caused by one of the strains of the influenza A virus, similar to the virus of the typical human flu. Until recently, it has been considered absolutely safe for people, as viruses are highly specific to their hosts mainly. Scientists suggest that the main role in distribution of this disease was played by migratory birds, especially those that travel between China and the Far Eastern regions of Russia (TEDTalks). It is believed that all birds are susceptible to this infection to a varying degree. The main danger is migratory waterfowl, primary wild ducks. They are the least susceptible to the disease, but they serve as a reservoir for the bird flu virus About 15 subtypes of the avian influenza virus have been identified by now (TEDTalks). It suggests the significant variety for potential interactions between viral proteins and host receptors, allowing for crossing the interspecific barrier.
Representatives of the World Health Organization are especially concerned with H5N1 strain of the virus, which is dangerous for people. The first confirmed case of human infection of bird flu occurred in Hong Kong in 1997, then the H5N1 strain caused a severe respiratory disease in 18 people, six of which died (“Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases (PED)”, 2017). Before, only a few isolated cases of human infection with the avian influenza virus had been known. It had been suggested that H5N1 was not dangerous to humans until this deadly outbreak in China. However, when the epidemic of bird flu covered eight Asian countries in 2003 and early 2004 (Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam,) governments of these and neighboring countries introduced the severe quarantine measures. In March 2004, it seemed that the situation was stabilized. However, in June new outbreaks of bird flu were identified in Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mongolia, China, Thailand, and Vietnam (“Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases (PED)”, 2017). It clearly showed that the spread of viral diseases could not be perfectly controlled.
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In 2005, outbreaks of diseases in poultry were registered in Russia, Turkey, and Romania. The virus affected people in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam as well (“Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases (PED)”, 2017). Over the past ten years, the dangerous virus has infected more than 120 people, and half of them died. Fear of the massive human infections caused the governments to take action for its prevention, and fowl was killed for the prevention of flu transmission to humans. It was suggested that the virus was specifically bred to kill the poultry industry of Asia, which competed with the countries of Europe (TEDTalks). However, no documentary evidence for this position has been provided, and now the bird flu has reached Europe and America.
Moreover, the H5N1 bird flu virus was detected in pigs in Vietnam in February 2004 (“Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases (PED)”, 2017). Scientists found out that transmission of bird virus to pigs, which was previously recorded only in birds, can speed up its mutation rate, which leads to formation of a deadlier strain due to mixing between human and avian influenza. The fact is that pigs are susceptible to both human and bird influenza pathogens. In the case of mixing of the two types of virus in one animal, the pig, there can be an exchange of genetic information between the two pathogens, which sometimes contributes to the formation of highly virulent strain of the virus, capable of causing the most terrible flu pandemic in the human history.
The World Health Organization previously expressed fear about the possibility of such mutation to lead to millions of victims. The highly virulent virus can be effectively transmitted directly from person to person by airborne droplets, and nobody could have immunity to this new strain. Moreover, scientists suggested that the death rate from such pathogen will exceed 50%. The primary cause of high mortality rate for the disease is lack of immunity in humans (TEDTalks). The spread of the bird flu pathogen around the world increases the risks for its further mutation and makes the possibility of a global pandemic very likely.
In the nearest future, despite the development of health systems and the emergence of the more effective drugs and diagnostic tools, mortality rates and frequency of complications are likely to reduce under the same incidence and prevalence. According to the World Health Organization, the deadliest infectious diseases are respiratory diseases (including influenza and pneumonia,) HIV/AIDS, diseases of the digestive system, tuberculosis, malaria, measles, and hepatitis B (“Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases (PED)”, 2017). At the same time, most of the infections acquire the features of epidemics in cases, when armed conflict or serious economic difficulties begin in any country. The refugees are expected to suffer the most from infectious diseases, because of the poor life conditions. In turn, they are likely to cross borders and carry epidemics to other countries. In addition, the principal carriers of disease could be servicemen, who work in hostilities in different countries, for example, the outbreaks of tropical diseases in U.S. were noted after the end of the war in Vietnam (Brilliant, 2006). Returning citizens, as well as the Vietnam people, leaving their country in search of better life, contributed to transmission of diseases at the global scale.
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There are numerous problems, which have developed in the field of epidemiology due to industrial development and technological advances. Every day, two million people cross the borders all over the world, and it contributes to the spread of epidemics. The reduction in world air traffic after the September 11 attacks slowed the spread of flu epidemic considerably. Due to the development of international trade, many causative agents of dangerous diseases entered other countries through imported food products. At the same time, new pathogens acquired greater resistance to known antibiotics and it is increasingly difficult to fight them. In addition, local health systems are often not ready to fight with the exotic diseases, unusual for the particular area (TEDTalks). Therefore, there are a number of issues, which create serious international problems, while some nations only could benefit from the outbreaks in the specific situations, which, however, are associated with other problems.
Negative role is also played by gradual climate change, known as global warming. Industrial development is considered one of the primary reasons, which has significantly contributed to this natural phenomenon and continues to result in rising temperature. As a result, malaria, which has recently been a disease of the tropical regions only, is spreading to larger territories in Asia and Africa. The American continent faced another misfortune: in the 1970s, the deadly fever “breakbonefever,” carried by mosquitoes, was virtually defeated, and only the isolated cases have been recorded since then. In 2001, mosquitoes, which are the vectors of the disease, were identified in 12 countries of Latin America. Despite all the measures taken, mosquitoes were “captured” all of the South, Central America, and part of the U.S. territory later that year. Annually malaria, which is characterized by high mortality rates, affects about 600 thousand people (“Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases (PED)”, 2017). Mosquitoes get into passenger planes with luggage, and are thus, spread to the new areas, contributing to epidemics of new diseases in a number of countries. Today, cases of dengue diseases are noted not only in Africa, but in Australia and Europe as well.
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Finally, epidemics are one of the main obstacles for economic development of countries. For example, because of the AIDS epidemic, the economies of many countries in South and Central Africa are in deep crisis. According to the forecast of the National Intelligence Council, the number of worldwide deaths from infectious diseases will reduce to 15% of the current rate by 2020 (“Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases (PED)”, 2017). According to this study, AIDS and hepatitis will be the most dangerous for the inhabitants of countries of the former USSR.
It is generally believed that some diseases, which can cause serious epidemics among humans were defeated. For example, it happened with smallpox, which is rarely registered today. However, it should be remembered that the majority of the world’s population has lost immunity against these pathogens. Taking into account industrial development and technological advances of today, pathogens causing these diseases could be used as biological weapon. International tourism, ability to migrate freely, huge network of international traffic, and other factors related with technological advances, make the spread of previously endemic, but deadly diseases possible. At the same time, industrialization has changed the environment significantly. People all over the world depend on their environment, and thus, the new burdens of infectious diseases appear. Moreover, wars and other social conflicts can contribute to the spread of disorders as well. Therefore, the sum of the internal forces of human is, at least, equal to the sum of forces acting from the outside, which allows for the survival of human population.