ORLANDO, Fla. – America is woefully unprepared for the threat of known infectious diseases – let alone emerging problems such as avian flu, health experts warned Wednesday.

“Infectious diseases are undergoing a global resurgence that threaten everyone’s health,” says the 40-page report from Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit group that promotes disease-prevention policies.

Infectious diseases kill more people worldwide – including 170,000 Americans – than any other type of conditions. Top killers are respiratory infections, HIV, diarrheal diseases and malaria.

Weaknesses

•Vaccines: The report bemoans an “empty pipeline” for new vaccines. Nothing exists for the world’s three top infectious threats: HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

•Rapid tests: Needed for many infectious diseases so officials can mobilize quickly to confine outbreaks.

•Surveillance: Health officials need better ways to track clusters of symptoms – the first sign of a problem.

•Treatments: New antibiotics are needed to deal with a growing number of resistant germs that respond less readily to today’s arsenal of drugs. Anti-virals and other medicines must be developed as well.

Recommendations

•Develop a “national game plan” that incorporates government, private medical, industry and community groups to prevent, detect and treat infectious diseases.

•The U.S. should stockpile antibiotics and other medicines to treat infectious diseases. Also requires a solid plan for distributing the drugs.

•Vast research efforts are needed on a variety of fronts, including rapid diagnostic tests; a better understanding of resistant bacteria; and developing new pesticides or insecticides.

For the complete report, go to http://healthyamericans.org/.


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