War of the Worlds: Our Worlds are Colliding and Infectious Disease is Winning
Collectively, infectious diseases are the second leading cause of death globally, following cardiovascular disease, but among young people infections are overwhelmingly the leading cause of death. As we eradicate diseases such as polio and smallpox, something else emerges and takes their place. This is the nature of the perpetual challenge of infectious diseases. We now combat newly emerging diseases, 75% of which are associated with animals – zoonoses, and many are of our own creation. Multiple factors, including economic development and land use, human demographics and behavior, and international travel and commerce, contribute to the emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases. Almost all of these factors reflect, in some measure, the encroachment of human civilization on the environment and on the microbial species that inhabit our environment. We have perturbed the balance…run…or join the battle.