Infectious Diseases: Is Your Attention Divided?

During the 9/11 terrorist attacks, eleven people were ill with Bacillus anthracis (anthrax), and 5 of them died. I distinctly remember my parents, friends, and classmates being afraid to open letters because they thought anthrax attacks were happening everywhere. Frankly, they weren’t; the terrorists successfully scared many Americans, which I believe was the main objective.

What else have we heard and read about so often? SARS outbreaks which originated in China? Mad-cow disease? West Nile Virus? These, along with Ebola and Monkeypox have caused less than a thousand deaths worldwide. I’m not saying that’s a good thing. It’s just interesting to think of horrible, impacting diseases and often find yourself reflecting upon these.

Infectious diseases that have caused over 100,000 deaths include the following: Rotavirus, Influenza, Hepatitis, and the top three killers, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis. Do you find this surprising? Over 1 million people have died from AIDS. Non-infectious agent killers include lower respiratory infections, which cause the most deaths, and diarrheal diseases (e.g. cholera) which are a close second.

Check out the stats from the CDC on disability life years (DALYs) yourself:



Leading causes of DALYs due to infectious and parasitic diseases. Lower respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, diarrheal diseases, and malaria are among the infectious diseases that contribute to the most DALYs lost each year throughout the world. (Each year of DALY is equivalent to 1 lost healthy life year.)