The tiny prick of a mosquito bite. Drinking tainted water. A sneeze by an infected person. The simplest acts can lead to the deadliest of diseases. And in great numbers, they become epidemics that can sicken or kill millions of people around the world every year. Illnesses such as diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis are among the leading causes of death worldwide.
One of the greatest public health concerns right now is an epidemic of dengue fever. It's a mosquito-borne illness, with effects ranging from flu-like symptoms to, in the most extreme cases, death. With no vaccine available yet, poor surveillance and containment means the disease continues to spread. And it's even reached the United States. In Puerto Rico, which has frequent outbreaks, dengue has sickened nearly 5,000 people this year. Since September, public health officials have tracked four locally acquired cases of the disease in Florida.
Dengue is now found in fully half the countries of the world. This year, the largest outbreak has been in India, which has officially reported more than 30,000 cases, but massive underreporting likely means the real toll is probably millions of infections. And on the archipelago of Madeira in Portugal, at least 200 probable cases of dengue have been reported.
Throughout history, epidemics have plagued humans, from the Black Death in Europe and parts of Asia to the worldwide Spanish flu at the close of World War I. AIDS may be one of the newest pandemics, claiming 25 million lives since 1981, but much older diseases continue to kill millions in many parts of the world: cholera, yellow fever, tuberculosis and malaria.
This week, Christiane talks with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.