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Top Pathogens To Watch Out For and What They Do

The World Health Organization (WHO) brought together experts in human and animal health, epidemiology, applied mathematics as well as relevant researchers and clinicians to identify severe emerging diseases with potential to generate a public health emergency just like what Ebola did in 2014. Do you know which ones made it to the list?

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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)

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This viral respiratory illness was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It is caused by a coronavirus called MERS-CoV. Most people who have been confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection developed severe acute respiratory illness. They had fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About 30% of people confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection have died. No antiviral treatment or vaccine is available.

Lassa Fever

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Lassa fever is a viral hemorrhagic (bleeding) illness that occurs in West Africa, transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with rodent urine or feces. Approximately 15% to 20% of patients hospitalized for Lassa fever die from the illness. Antiviral drug ribavirin seems to be effective if given early. No vaccine available.

Nipah Virus Infection

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Nipah virus (NiV) was initially isolated and identified in 1999 during an outbreak among pig farmers and people with close contact with pigs in Malaysia and Singapore. In Bangladesh and India, person-to-person transmission of the virus is regularly reported. Transmission also occurs from direct exposure to infected bats. A common example is consumption of raw date palm sap contaminated with infectious bat excretions. The average case fatality rate of Nipah virus encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) is 74.5%. No antiviral treatment or vaccine is available.

Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF)

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CCHF is primarily transmitted to people from ticks and livestock animals. Human-to-human transmission can occur resulting from close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected persons. The CCHF virus causes severe viral hemorrhagic (bleeding) fever outbreaks, with a case fatality rate of 10% to 40%. Antiviral drug ribavirin has been used with apparent benefit. No vaccine available.

Marburg Virus Disease

CDC/ Dr. Erskine Palmer, Russell Regnery, Ph.D / Via

According to the WHO, the “cousin” of Ebola Virus Disease was first identified in 1967 during epidemics in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany from importation of infected monkeys from Uganda. The Marburg virus is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected persons. Transmission of the Marburg virus also occurred by handling ill or dead infected wild animals (monkeys, fruit bats). The case-fatality rate is between 23% to 90%. No antiviral treatment or vaccine is available.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

TIME, Newsweek

SARS is a serious form of pneumonia caused by a coronavirus virus that was first identified in 2002. The SARS virus is believed to have originated in the Guangdong Province in Southern China and had subsequently spread around the world. There have been no recorded cases of SARS anywhere in the world since 2004. The death rate from SARS was 9% to 12% of those diagnosed. No antiviral treatment or vaccine is available.

Rift Valley Fever (RVF)

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RVF primarily affects animals (such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, and camels) but also has the capacity to infect humans. The disease was first reported in livestock by veterinary officers in Kenya’s Rift Valley in the early 1910s. Case fatality rate has varied widely between different epidemics but, overall, has been less than 1% . Those infected either experience no symptoms or develop a mild form of the disease characterized by sudden onset of flu-like fever, muscle pain, joint pain and headache. A vaccine has been developed for humans but is not licensed and is not commercially available.

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