Emerging infectious diseases (EID) are a global threat to public health. Over the last thirty
years, many infectious disease outbreaks have held our attention, including HIV
and AIDS, Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), several strains of influenza, Middle
Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Emerging infectious diseases can be newly recognized, like MERS, or well-known
diseases breaking out in previously uninfected populations or geographic areas,
such as the Chikungunya virus, which recently appeared in Florida. The term “emerging”
also refers to infectious diseases that are reappearing, as measles has just done in California, or that are changing,
like the influenza virus does every year. Infections could also be caused by bacteria like MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
that have become resistant to antibiotics, or drug-resistant tuberculosis. EIDs can also be zoonotic diseases such as Lyme disease,
Salmonella, rabies, and even the plague, which naturally infect animals but
can spread to humans.
A variety of factors contribute to disease emergence, including population
growth, climate and ecological changes, increasing contact with animals, overuse
of antibiotics, international travel and trade, and inadequate public health
infrastructure. While not every infectious disease is a major public health
threat, some have resulted in global pandemics with enormous human and economic
consequences. Scientific advances have improved disease detection, surveillance
and containment, but significant challenges remain. As emergency nurses, it is
imperative to understand the current infectious disease landscape, participate
in timely information-sharing, and become familiar with the tools to contain
and combat EIDs.
Much of the necessary knowledge can be found on the ENA EID information center and other freely available websites such as www.healthmap.org, which delivers real-time intelligence
on a multitude of EIDs. ENA EID aims at bringing together disparate data
sources, including online news, official guidance for patient care, and
reliable disease information. Take time to explore the information center and
learn more about EIDs to protect yourself, your family, and your patients.