SARS, Avian flu, West Nile virus — these are just a few of the spreading diseases that are at risk of becoming pandemics. They are dangerous, scary, and they kill. Some researchers are saying that these illnesses are just the beginning in a series of diseases that could threaten humanity.
The common link seems to be that these infections are all being started by animals. After the disease becomes a major problem — but at what cost? Often food prices go up and this affects the cost of living, standards of living, and can even encourage the spread of disease by decreasing the amount of money available for health care for poor families.
The answer instead, is prevention. Research is showing that by maintaining natural animal habitats, humans can stop the spread of animal diseases into the human population. When humans venture out into the rainforest to log, for example, or when they build roads into remote areas, they increase humankind’s exposure to animals that would normally be contained in a remote, isolated place.
As the animals get used to human contact, they venture further outside of their known habitat, bringing their unknown diseases with them. Over time, the bacteria and viruses they carry may adapt to being able to infect humans, as is happening with the bird flu.
If you live near swamps, or if you are currently in a region that is experiencing mosquito season, always ensure that you cover up with an effective bug spray (on hair and even underneath clothes). If you plan on going out in dense bushes, try to wear mosquito netting. For now, there isn’t a lot that people in America can do to prevent the spread of the bird flu — but it isn’t a major threat here yet.
However, the United States government is preparing for a pandemic, so make sure that you stay tuned in to find out when a vaccine becomes available.