“No infectious disease rains down on humanity out of nowhere.”-Kevin Cunningham

The wonderful thing about being an evolved species is that we are capable of developing ways to protect ourselves from disease. Unluckily for us, however, viruses and bacteria can also evolve–or rather, mutate, into new and deadlier forms of disease.

That is exactly what has happened with the most recent outbreak of E. coli. This deadly strain of E. coli has already taken sixteen victims in Germany, and several hundred people have been infected.

Kevin Cunningham, author of the Morgan Reynolds series Diseases in History, writes, “All [diseases] have been (and are) assisted by human behavior…. Humans have always created conditions agreeable to pathogens…”

These diseases, in turn, not only make us sick, they also turn whole economies upside down. In the case of malaria, for example, Cunningham writes, “The effects reverberate across the entire economy… malaria keeps workers from working. A bout of malaria costs a worker between four and six days on the job….a case of fever at harvest time means less food gets picked. That can lead to nutritional problems or starvation, not just for the farmer but for his extended family.”

Some agricultural workers in Spain have had to stop working as a result of the panic the E. coli outbreak has caused in Europe. People are scared to purchase produce, making demand for their summer cucumbers pretty much zilch, and thus workers have nothing to pick.

We will always be plagued (no pun intended) by diseases. It’s a fact of life. Until we find an omnipotent vaccine that eradicates illness of all kinds, we have to assume that nature will create obstacles such as new strains of E. coli, malaria, and influenza, to name a few.

Some facts about some of the world’s most infectious diseases:

-Since 1981, HIV has infected roughly 65 million people around the world.

-No one actually dies from AIDS, rather from infections or lesser viruses that wreak havoc on the immune system.

-Between 1,000-3,000 cases of bubonic plague are confirmed each year.

-Malaria has been around since prehistory.

-The most common victims of malaria are pregnant African women and African children under the age of five.

-Around 1 million people die from influenza annually.

-Scientists have predicted a severe influenza pandemic will strike in the future, and although they do not know when or what exactly will happen to those infected, they predict that as many as 207,000 could die in the U.S.

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor


For more information about Malaria, HIV, Influenza, and Plague, check out the Diseases in History series:

Diseases in History: Malaria (ISBN 978-1-59935-103-2)

Diseases in History: HIV/AIDS (ISBN 978-1-59935-104-9)

Diseases in History: Flu (ISBN 978-1-59935-105-6)

Diseases in History: Plague (ISBN 978-1-59935-102-5)

Published in: on June 3, 2011 at 1:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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