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Infectious Diseases Threats

Infectious Diseases

The potential of infectious diseases to affect both the individuals and their ability to pursue life, happiness, and liberty makes the threat of diseases to the security of humanity more disturbing. In addition to personal implications, infectious diseases spread undermines the citizens’ trust in the government’s ability to respond and protect its people. As a result of degraded public confidence, the economy is negatively impacted and the social order is undermined. The ripple effects catalyze regional imbalances and instability and create fertile ground for terrorism to thrive, primarily through biowarfare and bioterrorism.

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AIDS spread in South Africa can serve as one of the best examples of how pathogen spread can cause devastating effects on security at all levels, ranging from personal and regional to global. The research paper evaluates current infectious disease threats, chains of infection and immunity, effects of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) on global health, as well as finally highlights the United States' strategy in dealing with the threats.

Current Infectious Disease Threat Both in the United States and Worldwide

The emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases are a threat to people around the globe, including United States citizens. In the past several decades, several infectious diseases had taken the global stage by surprise, causing socioeconomic disruptions (Christian et al., 2013). Emerging infectious diseases that have had the hugest impact include HIV, H1N1, SARS, and Ebola in West Africa. Many governments, with the United States offering leadership, continue to evaluate the threats such diseases pose and they have come together to try to mitigate the risks. The concerns are genuine, considering that one to three new infectious diseases are discovered every year since the 1980s, thus having greater effects in terms of affected regions, different populations, and an increased number of victims (Christian et al. 2013).

Several factors can be associated with the disease emergence, including the growth of the global population and the ease of movement, increased human-animal contact, land-use changes, and poor public health infrastructure in both developed and developing countries. Geographical areas like Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, identified as the emerging diseases “hotspots,” possess all the factors simultaneously. Although the United States has overcome most of the major contributing factors to the emergency of the diseases, the threats of the disease should not be underestimated. The world is a global village, and the pathogen can move from the remotest part of Africa to New York within days. Terrorists can also do everything in their power to see the United States plagued by deadly pathogens like the Ebola virus.

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Factors That Make Up the Chain of Infections

Traditionally, infectious diseases were known to result from the interaction of three elements, namely the agent, the host, and the environment. More precisely, the chain of infection contains six separate links. Each of the links plays a fundamental role in the spread of the pathogen. Hence, the cycle can be interrupted at any of the six links. First, an infectious agent or pathogen is a disease-causing organism which may be a virus or a bacterium. Milk pasteurization, treatment of water, and the use of disinfectants are some of the methods used to break the cycle at the first link. Further, pathogens require a specific environment for survival. Reservoirs may be animals or soil and they comprise the second factor that makes up the chain of infection.

For the infectious agent to spread, it must leave the reservoir through a portal exit. In case the reservoir is a human, the portal of exit can be saliva, feces, mucous membranes, blood, and nose, among others. Barrier methods such as condoms can be used to break the cycle at this stage. After leaving the reservoir, the pathogen can be transmitted either directly or indirectly. Direct transmission in the fourth cycle factor requires direct contact with the host while indirect transfer happens through animals or insects. Then, the portal of entry forms the fifth link and can be through either inhalation, penetration, or ingestion. The last link acts as a new reservoir by hosting the pathogen. At this link, the chain can be broken through medical treatment or immunization.

Types of Immunity

Immunization is one of the best ways to control the spread or prevent the outbreak of infectious diseases. Immunity can be classified into artificial and natural immunity. Natural immunity occurs when a host is infected with the pathogen, causing the body to produce antibodies that will resist the infectious agent in the future. Artificial immunity involves human intervention where weakened pathogens are introduced into a potential host to trigger the production of disease-fighting antigens. Herd immunity works under the principle that not all members of the community need immunization but only the susceptible hosts.

STD's Effects on Global Health

In reality, the majority of infections are usually transmitted through sex. STDs have a threatening negative impact on sexual and reproductive health. The figures are not encouraging, considering that every day one million STDs new infections occurs (Jarris & Talkington, 2014). The consequences associated with STDs go beyond the immediate infection impacts. STDs like herpes and syphilis significantly increase the chances of having other STDs like HIV. Infected pregnant women can transmit the diseases to the child during delivery, leading to neonatal death, stillbirth, and congenital deformations, among other ailments. Human papillomavirus leads to cervical cancer that affects over half a million people every year (Jarris & Talkington, 2014).

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Further, STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and women's infertility. The effects of STDs on global health are extensive and far-reaching, considering that most financial investments made in health are spent on the control and treatment of the disease like cancer and HIV. Some of these infections may be the chief contributors to the failure to attain the desired level of the neonatal death rate. In the wake of deteriorating embracement of abstinence from sexual activities and faithfulness to a single sexual partner, the worrying figures are unlikely to change soon.

Health Care System Response to STDs and HIV

In response to the spread and effects of STDs and HIV, the United States health system invests 16 billion annually in the treatment and control of the diseases (Christian et al. 2013). Five major strategies have been identified as the best approaches toward dealing with the overload. First, the system has committed to educating and counseling people with higher contraction risks on avoidance of STDs and HIV through the use of recommended prevention measures and changes in sexual behavior.

The health care system also makes every effort to identify asymptomatically infected individuals. The medical practitioners have also been placed on high alert on the importance of actual diagnosis, counseling, and treatment of infected people. The treatment of partners should be simultaneous to prevent incidences of re-infection that occur when only one partner is treated. The last approach, which has great hope and potential, involves the vaccination of individuals prone to contraction of vaccine-preventable STDs.

Moreover, the people of the United States also contribute significantly toward combating the spread of the diseases, especially in third world countries, through humanitarian donations and, in some cases, through volunteering and working in these communities. In addition, the government provides grants through the health care system for the purchase of ARVs medication, hence helping to prolong the life of infected persons. Nevertheless, the health care system efforts cannot be enough unless the international public decides to be responsible for not only themselves but also their partners.

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The threats associated with the spread of infectious diseases are extensive and far-reaching. As illustrated through the paper, the threat affects the United States and the world, in general, especially in the era of potential bioterrorism. Emerging infectious diseases pose the greatest challenge as illustrated in the recent Ebola outbreak. Three elements with six links were identified as the factors that complete the infectious chain. To break the chain of various infection strategies, acquiring either of the types of immunity can be employed. Finally, the effects of STDs were evaluated and recommendations were made for the public to play an active role in combating the threats.

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