Modern Supergerms . . . And Others
In the wealthier lands it is often felt that, while diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis still pose a challenge, infectious diseases are generally well under control. This, however, is not the case. A recent article in U.S.News & World Report said: “Infectious diseases have not been licked. They are still the world’s leading cause of death and, here at home, the leading cause of illness.”
Diseases that have recently sent shock waves through the medical community include toxic-shock syndrome, Legionnaires’ disease, herpes and the sinister AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). Among the infectious diseases that refuse to go away are gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis, aseptic meningitis and encephalitis. Leprosy, malaria and tuberculosis are also on the rise.
Why the increase of such diseases? Some disease organisms are now immune to medicine’s “big guns,” the antibiotics. They have become “supergerms.” Freewheeling life-styles have caused sexually transmitted disease to spread like wildfire. And an influx of immigrants from poor lands explains the reappearance of diseases out of the past, such as leprosy, tuberculosis and malaria.
The difficulty of preventing germ transmission in hospitals, nursing homes and day-care centers is blamed for the spread of many “supergerms.” “Lurking in catheters, intravenous fluids and even pots of flowers sent to cheer up patients, the bacteria and fungi kill 15,000 to 20,000 people annually [in the United States]. One study showed that these infections were involved in 39 percent of hospital deaths,” the report says.