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10 Potentially Devastating Public Health Threats

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10 Potentially Devastating Public Health Threats

As our worlds population grows by about 70 million each year, every approaching public health crisis becomes all the more threatening. At we decided to use this infographic to explore ten of the most troubling threats on the horizon, including prevention and treatment.

1. Cyber-Warfare

The US Department of Defense is authorized to wage offensive cyber attacks to defend information of the US and its allies. They can also use physical force such as missiles, to retaliate against political hackers in certain situations. Over the next 2 years, the military has been ordered to devise a program to detect unauthorized access to our transmission of sensitive info

Last year we spent about $6 billion on data and network security worldwide. By 2016, global cyber-security spending will reach over $10 billion.

Where information security is concerned, physical security can be compromised too. In September 2007, Syria missed detection of Israeli F15s and F16s that bombed construction of a nuclear reactor - because Israel hacked Syria's radar system first

The Stuxnet worm, developed by the US and Israel, successfully damaged Iranian nuclear reactors without engineers noticing anything was wrong

2. Chagas Disease

Caused by a parasite that typically feeds on face
- Affects 8-11 million people in the Americas
- Kills about 50,000 people/year
- Over 120 million people in 21 countries are at risk of infection

Prevention and Treatment:
- Use insecticide
- Carefully screen blood donations to prevent infection via blood transfusion
- Improve early detection
- Use available medications as soon as diagnosed

3. Nuclear Radiation

Radioactive hydrogen (tritium) has been found to leak from 75% of US nuclear power plants
- These leaks can contaminate the public water supply--though experts say the amount is inconsequential when factoring in everyday radiation exposure
- (This is despite the fact that 77% of the leaky facilities exceed the federal drinking water standard for radiation, in some cases by hundreds of times!)
- Radiation effects from Fukushima are still debatable

Prevention and Treatment:
- Higher drinking water standards
- Better nuclear safety practices
-Development of better treatments for acute radiation sickness--there are currently few to none

4. Pandemic Influenza

2025: 4.9 billion people will live in urban areas--70% of the world
- Dense populations let infectious diseases like influenza thrive
- Details on danger of a man-made H5N1 avian flu considered a biosecurity hazard, withheld by scientific journals
- Current strain of bird flu is difficult to transmit to humans, but fatal in 60% of human cases
- Mutated strain would be highly contagious to ferrets and humans

To prevent a pandemic, we need to improve in the following areas:
- Response coordination
- Surveillance and monitoring of illness trends
- Disease containment and mitigation
- Delivery of countermeasures
- Public communication

5. Terrorism

The US has spent over $1 trillion on national security since 9/11. Bioterrorism (as with bird flu, anthrax, etc.) remains a threat. There are no enforceable international regulations regarding synthetic biology Researchers are re-creating and synthesizing new viruses all the time--and the findings are often published. Agroterrorism threatens our food supply from inside and outside the country

Despite these increasing risks, our public health system is losing funding and jobs. Federal funding for public health has declined 39%. 33 states have cut funding and 19% of the public health force has been eliminated. We simply arent staffed enough to properly respond to terrorism and many other threats...

6. Antimicrobial Resistance

Overuse of antibiotics (both in food and medicine) have contributed to rapid development of drug-resistant bacteria
- Biggest resistance threats:
- MRSA: 1 in 50 people may carry the bacteria
- Enterococcus, Staphylococcus, Klebsiella, Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas and Enterobacter (ESKAPE): often transmitted via hospital equipment
- E. coli and Salmonella: resistance likely linked to antibiotic use in farm animals
- Gonorrhea and chlamydia: 106 million people worldwide acquire gonorrhea yearly
- Tuberculosis: kills 1.34 million people globally each year--of 12 million cases in 2010, 650,000 were drug-resistant

- Only take antibiotics when necessary and prescribed
- Take exactly as directed: no missed doses
- Limit intake of animal products containing hormones/antibiotics

7. Chemical Accidents

Chemical accidents threaten not only plant workers, but also the surrounding public, ecosystems, etc.
- Effects may be immediate, or not present until several months or even years later--meaning the spill/accident may not be detected immediately, either
- Recently, 11 Darigold workers were hospitalized when a vapor was created due to worker error
- 2,400 drinking water and wastewater treatment plants arent covered under current chemical safety laws, more than a decade after 9/11

Prevention and Treatment:
- Emergency preparedness plans must be in place
- Responders should know the proper protocol for areas of varying risk

8. Prescription Drug Abuse

Over 2.7% of Americans, or 7+ million people, misuse prescription drugs
- Pain relievers most abused: 5.1 million Americans do so
- 1 in 12 high schoolers have used Vicodin recreationally
- Prescription drugs more deadly than vehicle accidents: 37,485 vs. 36,284 deaths in 2009 (most recent year for data)

Prevention and Treatment:
- DEA implementing risk evaluation strategies/mandatory physician education on the issue
- Medications should be kept securely away from others
- Friends and family who suspect a problem should speak up
- Medications to ease withdrawal (i.e. Suboxone, Vivitrol)
- Therapy/addiction treatment
- Seek support

9. Slow-Killing Diseases Related To Diet

- 25.8 million Americans have diabetes--8.3% of the population
- ADA believes 79 million more Americans are prediabetic

Alzheimers Disease
- About 5.4 million Americans have it--most common form of dementia
- 16 million expected by 2050

High Blood Pressure
- 2010: Responsible for 12.8% of all deaths globally

- By 2030, over US half of adults will be obese, 90% will be overweight
- May cause first decline in life expectancy in over 100 years Prevention and Treatment for All:
- Stay active, maintain healthy weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc.

10. Natural Disasters

- 2011: 14 extreme weather events caused over $1 billion in damages in the US
- 99 major disaster declarations by FEMA--the most in at least 70 years
- 2,000+ deaths each year due to extreme heat/pre-existing conditions aggravated by extreme heat
- Increase in "environmental refugees" -- those displaced by weather disasters--up to 50 million by 2020

- Reduce pollution
- Recognize vulnerabilities at a local level
- Keep track of emerging health threats
- Build with climate change in mind

public health threats