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Brought to light by the recent Ebola outbreak, researchers are assessing the nation's preparedness for controlling and fighting the spread of infectious disease. An underlying reason for this gap in our healthcare system appears to be complacency. It has long believed that in the United States we have eradicated many infectious diseases, and that we are not at risk of threats here. However, the latest Ebola outbreak and other recent occurrences have revealed chinks in the armor that should be addressed.
The major concern that researchers are alluding to regarding the potential for outbreak is the overall connectedness of the world. Sources from the National Institutes of Health indicate that infectious disease that threatens any area of the world affects the rest of it. Additionally, global concerns such as public health efforts, vaccination, and climate change result in increased likelihood of disease spread.
Among the major concerns affecting the American healthcare system, researchers cite vaccinations, complacency, climate change, and antibiotic resistance. Though vaccines are available for a variety of infectious diseases, there is still a significant portion of the population not inoculated. Due to our confidence in American healthcare, we have lessened efforts in treating infectious disease often leading to a resurgence. As an example, HIV infections increased 22% among gay men and 48% among black men between 2008 and 2010. Climate change has increased the frequency of mosquito borne illness like malaria and West Nile Virus, especially in areas not typically affected. And, the increase in antibiotic use has led to resistance by many bacteria leading to superbugs affecting 2 million American's annually.
Researchers are suggesting improvements to the healthcare system, training, vigilance, and communication to prevent the spread of infectious disease. One suggestion is increased funding for healthcare measures, vaccine and antibiotic development, and education programs. In addition, recommendations include training programs at hospitals and periodic testing to verify preparedness. Of major concern with these programs was the method of communication to the public which could effectively draw attention and convey specifics without creating panic.