Strengthening Global Health Security Protects Americans

Posted on by CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden


This blog was originally posted on on February 13, 2014.


The 5 Ways Diseases in Other Countries Can Kill You

The world is smaller and people are more mobile than at any time in history. This makes it easier than ever for what’s happening anywhere on the globe to harm Americans’ health.

Here are five ways diseases in other countries pose a threat:

1) The flu could threaten millions. Even in a mild year for flu, in the United States alone, there are thousands of deaths, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and billions of dollars in productivity losses.

In a pandemic, millions of people worldwide could be killed. H7N9 influenza, also known as bird flu, is spreading in China, though fortunately it has not mutated to become an infectious disease outbreak that could threaten the health of people around the world.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden

2) Antibiotic resistance is on the rise. Antibiotic resistance just might be the most urgent health threat facing us now.

The nightmare strain of bacteria known as CRE, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, arose abroad and was introduced to one state in the United States. Now it’s in at least 44 states. It can resist all or almost all antibiotics, kills many of the people who get it in their blood, and spreads its resistance capabilities to other bacteria.

The World Health Organization estimates multidrug-resistant tuberculosis already has infected a half a. million people across the globe.

(See also A nightmare health scenario we can stop.)

3) Diseases don’t respect borders. Going abroad can expose travelers to more than new cultures and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

More than 1,500 U.S. travelers get malaria every year, and the numbers are increasing. Yellow fever is spread by mosquitoes and causes more than 30,000 deaths worldwide each year, primarily in tropical areas of Africa and Latin America. People coming back from safari might bring back more than just pictures; they could find themselves facing African trypanosomiasis, better known as sleeping sickness, transmitted by the tsetse fly found only in rural Africa.

4) “Foreign” diseases are now domestic threats. We think of parasitic diseases as risks to travelers, but they harm people here at home as well. For example, Chagas disease is a chronic infection generally acquired by people in rural areas of Latin America, but about 300,000 people now living in the United States have this disease.

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease common in the tropics that infects more than 60 million people in the United States. While the immune system usually keeps the parasite from making people sick, it can cause death attributed to foodborne illness.

5) Emerging infections: What’s the next HIV? Mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus, dengue, and chikungunya infect hundreds of thousands of people each year and are spreading globally. In the past few years, we’ve seen global outbreaks of Ebola and other deadly viral hemorrhagic fevers.

(See also 5 health challenges for 2014.)

There are many diseases out there that we don’t even know about. Our new effort can prevent them from becoming epidemics.

That’s why CDC partners with nations all over the world to detect and respond to disease outbreaks. Together we responded to more than 250 outbreaks in 2013. No single country can deal with these health threats alone. Cooperation between countries has tremendous impact in early detection.

Early detection of a single case of Ebola virus in 2011 led to an immediate response and the disease was stopped in its tracks. Previous similar outbreaks were large and spread rapidly through communities there.

CDC is helping countries around the world strengthen their ability to prevent avoidable catastrophes and epidemics, detect threats early, and respond rapidly and effectively. Stopping outbreaks where they occur is the most effective and least expensive way to save lives at home as well as abroad. And it’s the right thing to do.

That’s why we announced Thursday that the United States, through the work of the CDC and the departments of Agriculture, State, and Defense, has committed to cooperate with at least 30 partner countries to better prevent, detect, and effectively respond to infectious disease threats, better protecting at least 4 billion people around the world — including the United States — from threats.

(See also How to prevent the next pandemic.)

And we have called on partner countries to work together so that effective prevention, detection, and response are present in every country around the world.

This year CDC and the Department of Defense have pledged $40 million to expand to 10 additional countries in addition to the pilot projects in Uganda and Vietnam. President Obama will request an additional $45 million in 2015 to accelerate progress around the world.

It’s an essential step in strengthening global health security that will protect Americans, strengthen our nation’s global partnerships, and increase health security capacity around the world. Helping other countries makes those countries, and the United States, safer.

(See also The most infectious of all infectious diseases.)

Posted on by CDC Director Dr. Tom FriedenTags , , , , , , ,

5 comments on “Strengthening Global Health Security Protects Americans”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    Here in Brazil, we are also facing new problems for us like – Lyme disease, Chikungunya, West Nile virus and new vectors like African snail etc.. I believe that the best way, and maybe the only way is to share information and strategies between countries, for sure diseases don’t respect the borders.

    As a former EIS Officer I applaud CDC’s emphasis on global health. As an American who is currently working in Europe, I am very concerned about the tone of the poster “The Five Ways Diseases in Other Countries Can Kill You.” It can appear to be xenophobic, implying that other countries are out to kill Americans. At this time, there are many more diseases/conditions in America that kill Americans (due to smoking, obesity, violence, suicide, etc) than diseases from other countries. Yet I cannot imagine the outcry if CDC made a poster that was titled “The Five Ways Conditions in America Can Kill You.” Or, alternatively,what it would be like for a foreign ministry of health to make a poster ‘The Five Conditions in America That Can Kill You” and include the spread of fast food, tobacco, alcohol, sugar-sweetened soft drinks, etc.

    Please reconsider the wording of this poster. I say this with the deepest respect for all that CDC does for the US and the World.

    This is a great article with issues that are relevant and in the limelight of the current Global Health conversations. I am going to use it in the teaching of Introduction to Public Health class.

    Your words, my words. Thank you Mrs Elizabeth, to be so precise in your comment. As a brazilian public health employee we work looking for a better human health, no matter from where you are . For all the good that CDC does for the humanity, I’m pretty sure this is just a words problem. Even with this, great article.

    This is a good article, I intend to use the principles in my health education. Thanks for this forum

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