FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

"Classic" Diseases Resurface

Everything old may be new again... but unlike bell-bottom jeans and ballroom dancing, not all of it is welcomed back with open arms. Among the blasts from the past we'd rather forget are re-emergent diseases once thought conquered: mumps, whooping cough, rickets, tuberculosis, and even scarlet fever -- the illness that left Helen Keller blind and deaf.

Several factors are causing these scourges to make comebacks in the 21st Century:

  • Changes to less potent measles/mumps/rubella vaccines in the '80s have left many of today's college students more vulnerable than their elders to mumps and other contagious diseases, which can spread quickly in crowded dorms and cafeterias.
  • "Vaccine fatigue" has made inoculations less effective against newer virus strains.
  • The trends toward breastfeeding and organic foods may leave some children with vitamin deficiencies, particularly a lack of Vitamin D that leaves them vulnerable to rickets.
  • Ease and frequency of travel, which accelerates epidemics.

Drug manufacturers continue to develop new antibiotics and vaccines to fight the new forms of these vintage bugs, yet they can only move so quickly. In the meantime, individuals and physicians need to be aware of the symptoms, and parents need to be alert when children feel ill.

Source: Newsweek