2015 Resolution: Accept That Diseases Hop Borders, Don’t Dismiss Them, And Don’t Panic

Maryn McKenna | WIRED | January 3, 2015

Happy New Year, constant readers. There’s no question that the big public health story of 2014 was Ebola. The African epidemic has now racked up more than 20,000 cases, according to the World Health Organization, which has put together a useful map and timeline of developments since March. If you’d like to look back on the year, the best sum-up by far is the New York Times’ long and beautifully told “How Ebola Roared Back,” and for a sense of what we learned this year — and what we still don’t know — consider reading Helen Branswell’s account, published at the Winnipeg Free Press.

The international health community still must focus on Ebola; the disease is by no means contained. But my New Year’s wish, for those of us outside that community, is that we begin 2015 by accepting that wherever diseases occur, they are going to travel. We had repeated demonstrations of this with Ebola; and as a global community, we didn’t react well. (If you feel like revisiting the cringe-making details, the Today in Ebolanoia Tumblr is still up.)

The disease that really makes this case, though, is the antibiotic resistance factor NDM. Since its original discovery in one person in Sweden in 2008, this snippet of DNA — which makes common infections essentially untreatable — has been carried by patients to at least 40 countries, and spread within those countries to create local hospital outbreaks...