Exotic diseases are the greatest threat to humanity. In a world where so many things are overlooked, diseases and epidemics are clearly overlooked and underestimated far more than any threat of nuclear war, global warming, or any comet headed for earth. Throughout history epidemics have plagued the earth several times resulting in a devastating number of deaths. As we approach the new millennium, many new and old diseases await humanity. What the world doesn’t comprehend is that an epidemic can be easily spawn off by many other problems humanity faces today. Some of those problems are high population density, newly inhabited areas, increased travel, new generation without immunity, mutation in microbes, over use of antibiotics, poverty/poor sanitation, and change in human activities. Diseases come into existence, change, and vanish, but some have always been with us. An epidemic attacks a population, it and runs its course, and then dies out, claiming hundreds to thousands of lives. There are ways of preventing some epidemics from starting, but not everyone agrees with the terms. Thus, these prevention plans for some diseases fail. Humanity is faced with many dangers of a doomsday in the next millennium, but the one that seems the most likely to happen is a world epidemic. Pg. 2 Human activities and behavior often help increases the risk of a world epidemic. In such activities like increased travel, shipments of resources and wild animals increase the possibility of catching a deadly virus and starting to spread an epidemic. Human behavior such as neglect can determine the fate of a world epidemic. Most people believe that Ebola or any other exotic disease would spawn off and epidemic only in third world countries, but that´s not true. In 1989 Ebola made it´s way to the United States. The virus hit Virginia, but luckily only in some Monkey´s. The monkeys were shipped in from West Africa, for experiments. What most people didn´t realize right away was that some of the monkeys were infected with Ebola. When the monkey´s arrived, the World Health Organization had found some dead, and diagnosed them with Ebola. The military had to quarantine and then kill all 400 monkey´s before the virus could start an epidemic in the United States. They were lucky they found some of the monkey´s dead and quickly knew from the way they died what from, if the monkey´s were still in the early stages of the virus, they most likely wouldn´t have stopped the virus in time from spreading. (Witness, 1995) In 1991 El Tor hit the coast of Peru. A crate of infected algae in water was shipped in from China and dumped in the Callao harbor. EL Tor came right into people´s homes through their faucets, the population was literally feasting on the deadly virus. El Tor started to spread all over Latin America. (Garrett, P.565) During the 80´s and early 90´s, Yellow Fever epidemics had occurred in Nigeria and Kenya, whipping out hundreds of their people. Mosquitoes are the natural hosts for the disease. Many researchers and scientists have stated that they have seen how easy it can be to spawn off and Yellow Pg. 3 Fever outbreak. The simple action of leaving the stumps of trees in place, after cutting them down, can start an outbreak in the disease. This is caused by the larvae collected in the water of the stumps, left by the mosquitoes. (Anderson, p.56, 1987) Yellow Fever is just one of the deadly viruses that are carried by insects. One of the key reasons epidemics spread is by the increase of travel. People can limit themselves to which places they travel, but what about insects? The American “Screw worm fly”, which transmitted deadly maggots that kill livestock, turned up in Lybia in 1988. It quickly spread through North Africa and its natural habitat was the USA. (Garrett, P.576, 1995) “In temperate ecologies, keeping wild insects at bay was quite easy, provided abatement and control systems remained intact and vigilant. Even a year of slacking in such an effort could, permit a sudden surge in insect vector populations, with resultant disease.” (Garrett, P.576, 1995) The fact that an outbreak could easily occur, if there was just a little neglect towards the control systems, is devastating. The result of such an action could be a world epidemic in a very short period of time, with a variety of different viruses. There were several outbreaks in mosquito borne diseases between 1985 and 1992 in specific areas in the USA, St. Louis, Florida, and Texas. At the time of this outbreak there was widespread panic, forcing cancellations of outdoor activities at night. (Garrett,P.619-20, 1995) AIDS is a very well known disease. Human neglect can be measured on a wide status, but one can be the neglect and ignorance of not using protection, while participating in sexual acts, and sharing needles. AIDS is spread by the exchange of body fluids, and the neglect of people not taking proper precautions, is only increasing the spread of the deadly virus. Pg. 4 (Karlen, P.207, 1995) It is also estimated that AIDS is going to spread faster and wider by the year 2000, “The WHO estimates as many as 30 million cases of AIDS by the year 2000.” (Molyneux, P.137, 1994) Diphtheria is a disease, which effects the heart and kidneys; it´s spread by coughing or sneezing. Anyone who comes in contact with a person with diphtheria can easily get the virus. “The only way to keep diphtheria out of the USA is to maintain the highest level of immunization possible.” (Byman, 1997) Plagues have happened throughout history and there are no vaccines for a plague. The bacteria Yersinia pestis cause plagues. Rats and Rodents carry this specific bacterium and its usually transmitted by the fleas that live on them. (Byman, 1997) This proves that a plague can happen again, even with the fact that some eastern countries eat these disease carriers for lunch, this in fact can spawn off another plague or an epidemic of Ebola easily. (Witness, 1995) Many countries that experience these epidemics are very poor countries. The cost to vaccinate or eliminate a virus that can be eliminated is extremely expensive. In other cases its expensive to deal with the aftermath of an epidemic. Some countries do have the money, but greedily and foolishly won´t spend it on preventing an epidemic. Some new strands of bacteria were emerging in the late 1980´s and their rates of emergence increase every year. These emergencies were adding approximately $200 million to medical bills a year, due to the need of using an increased number of exotic expenses. Antibiotics and increase in patient hospitalization costs $30 billion annually. It´s become extremely difficult to afford good health care and constant production of new vaccines for newly Pg. 5 emerging diseases. (Garrett, P.414, 1995) An epidemic of EL Tor Strain happened in Latin America, this was brought by shipments of infected algae in water and then dumped into their main water system. In 1995, $200 billion dollars was spent by the government of Latin America to sanitize and repair its water and sewage systems, which was extremely expensive. (Garrett, P. 564-5, 1995) The specific type of mosquito carrier for Yellow Fever is A. aegypti. This type of mosquito´s habitat is the Americas. The Americas were advised to kill all these type of mosquitoes to ensure no Yellow Fever outbreak would occur. Of course, no one said it was going to be a cheap and easy process. Before launching this project all of the countries in the Americas had to agree. CDC director, David Sencer concluded the process of riding the Americas of this mosquito was alone going to cost Puerto Rico and The Virgin Islands more than $200 million. The estimated total of all the Americas would exceed $1 billion. (Garrett, P.70, 1995) The inflated cost was primarily due, to private citizens´ refusal of the spraying of the pesticide on their properties to eliminate the deadly mosquitoes and the widespread threats of lawsuits. The unbelievable part, is that poorer nations in the south spent enormous sums of money to successfully terminate A. aegypti from the majority of the Americas, but the wealthiest country in the hemisphere and world refused to eliminate its own deadly mosquito´s. Thus, the effort for the project died. (Garrett, P.70, 1995) In 1994 one of the chief´s in WHO (world health organization) proposed to strengthen the WHO system by proposing a $1.8 million one shot program to upgrade all laboratories and medical systems worldwide. Months later the wealthy nation however stated that Pg. 6 they couldn´t because they were in huge debt already. Thus, this project failed, but the WHO organization will approach this again in the new millennium. (Garrett, P.607, 1995) Later in that year CDC launched a proposal identical to WHO. The entire system would cost $150 million a year to operate. The USA government again turned it down. Henderson, head of the CDC stated, “Can we afford to invest in such a program? A better question is whether we can afford not to invest in a program that could be a determinant in our own survival as a species.” (Garrett, P.605, 1995) Some of the reason that proves that exotic diseases are the greatest threat to humanity is the most obvious ones. The fact that most of these deadly viruses lead to instant death or long term suffering before death frightens many. Some of the factors that help contribute to prove this correct are the mutation of microbes, poorly sanitized countries/poverty, and the fact of no vaccines or cures are to be found. Most deadly viruses are members of a family of RNA known as filoviruses. When these viruses are magnified by an electron microscope they take on the appearance of long threads. Scientifically speaking, RNA is single stranded, while DNA is double stranded. The significance of this fact is that RNA stands are harder to control by antibiotics and are more prone to mutate often. (Karlen, P.14, 1995) In the 1960’s medical research was being conducted in Uganda on wild monkeys, (African green monkey). They were carrying the Marburg virus; they were put in cages and passed the virus on to one another. Viruses mutate change form and new ones can evolve. Thus, it’s hard to always make a new vaccine. (Preston, P. 32, 1994) Ebola is the most frightening disease known Pg. 7 to the human race. Ebola is explosive; it wipes through the immune system a thousand times faster than HIV. Ebola does in ten days what AIDS does in ten years. Ebola is in level 4 hot agents; there are no vaccines or cures for Ebola. The Ebola virus is airborne and it could circle the world in about six weeks during an epidemic. (Preston, 46, 1994) Ebola’s swift efficiency has devastating affects, kidney failure, severe internal hemorrhaging, insides turn to mush. (Outbreak, 1995) Common hosts for most viruses are rodents or mosquitoes, (arthropods). Although, in the Ebola virus, the natural host is unknown. The large outbreaks were in Zaire and at Sudan in the late 70’s. There were 340 deaths in Zaire in 1976. The most recent outbreak was in Kikwit, Zaire on April 10, 1995. Ebola can be spread by water, air, food, blood, contact, and body fluids. (TLC, Nov.21, 1998) Unfortunately, in the developing world, hospitals cannot afford a larger supply of equipment, such as needles so they reuse them on other patients. This helps spread the disease. (National center for infectious diseases center for disease control and prevention, P.1-2, 1998) There were experiments done on Ebola, they were not a success, the drugs had no effect on the virus. Civilian virus hunter and Ebola specialist, Gene Johnson’s infected monkeys had all died regardless of what medication they were given. He then discovered that the other monkey´s that were on the other side of the room had fell ill with Ebola, (This is what lead to the conclusion and discovery that Ebola was airborne). (Preston, 32,1994) Research chief for International Center of disease, Rita Colwell, was convinced that the whole ocean crisis was starting to effect the health of humans, “The rising sizes of viral populations in the world´s saline soup held out other Pg. 8 dangers to marine and, ultimately human health.”(Garrett, P. 563, 1995) Cholera epidemics in the 1970´s showed that Cholera could live inside of algae. The algae blooms were tracked to the shores of India and Bangladesh. These were key endemic sites for the microbe. While in this algae, Cholera mutated into another disease far greater, the El Tor Strain. It was concluded that El Tor strain was extremely well equipped genetically for, long term survival in algae and that El Tor could shrink itself 300- folds when put in cold salt water. When El Tor is placed in the water in this form, it mutates to the size of a large virus, extremely difficult to detect. ( Garrett, P. 533-4, 1995) In 1991 El Tor hit the coast of Peru. A crate of infected algae in water was shipped in from China and dumped in the Callao harbor. EL Tor came right into people´s homes through their faucets, the population was literally feasting on the deadly virus. El Tor started to spread all over Latin America. El Tor is antibiotic resistant, in Thailand it was invulnerable to as many as 8 drugs. The epidemic went on for as long as 3 years in Latin America, where “WHO” officials saw no end in sight. EL Tor claimed the lives of more than 8,000 Latin Americans and more than 900,000 cases of Cholera. (Garrett, P.535, 1995) As the world is aware, there are some deadly viruses that have been successfully eliminated or prevented by vaccines. Unfortunately, these “so-called” extinct viruses are not exactly extinct. Smallpox was a deadly virus, which caused a extreme high fever, spotting on flesh, then the spots open, dry up, then fall off. This virus attacks the heart, lungs, throat, liver, and leads to death. (EDRA, 1998) This virus was said to have been eliminated by a vaccine from earth in the 1960´s. Although, Russia and the USA have been keeping Pg. 9 some Smallpox viruses in their research facilities. When Smallpox was still active on earth scientists didn´t know very much about it. (TLC, Nov.21,1998) Thus, they kept some over the years to study. This is a very dangerous situation; if somehow the virus were to leak out, an epidemic of Smallpox can arise in the USA and Russia. There are no more vaccines for Smallpox because when it was eliminated from earth in the 60´s, there was no need for a vaccine for something supposedly extinct. (TLC, Nov.21, 1998) This is something that could very well happen and almost did a few years back, in England. England did have some Smallpox samples in their research facilities, until some leaked out and went through air vents in the laboratories. The virus was airborne, and it traveled through an air vent up to another research lab, where there was a female lab technician working. The place was quarantined; she was kept there under quarantine after she found out that the virus leaked. She was the last person to die from Smallpox. The virus in England was then destroyed. (TLC, Nov.21, 1998) This is an example how easy and unexpectedly this virus can leak out, if she would have left the building the virus would have spread through Europe and tourists would have brought the epidemic over to other countries. A leak of a virus, which no longer has a vaccine, would have devastating effects on humanity. (TLC, Nov 21, 1998) Pg. 10 Most people believe that exotic diseases are not that big of a threat to humanity, that vaccines and cures can be found. Although, it´s very evident that it´s difficult to keep inventing vaccines for specific viruses, as RNA strands often mutate changing the virus, which results with the demand for a new vaccine. Cost of producing more and more vaccines is extremely expensive. Society believes that most epidemics only occur in third world countries and that they cannot effect the more developed countries. That is very untrue, many viruses can be spread through travel and the importing of wild animals from other countries, and the wandering of insects from other countries. It is very clear that many people do not comprehend all the facts, that some countries either don´t have resources for help, do not want to help due to cost or privacy, or simply just don´t understand the great threat humanity faces. As humanity approach´s the new millennium it´s faced with many obstacles. Exotic Diseases is the greatest threat that humanity faces, in the next century. As people continue to neglect the fact that exotic diseases are extremely deadly, the microbes gain a greater advantage. There are so many unknown viruses scattered around the globe, just waiting to be found and to spawn off an epidemic. The world needs to cooperate in contributing more money and resources before there are appropriate measures taken to help prevent epidemics from happening. If the world doesn´t take theses diseases more seriously then the fate of humanity is at stake and we brace ourselves for the coming epidemic.