Infectious diseases (ID) have had a profound effect on the course of humankind.
Improved management of infectious diseases, coupled with public health policies such as the need for clean water and sanitation have likely saved millions — perhaps billions — of lives since they were widely implemented in the 19th and 20th centuries.
History of ID
The European bubonic plague, or “Black Death” (1348-1350), killed 80 percent of those infected. At least 20 million people died, which was about two-thirds of the European population at the time.
In 18th century Europe, it is estimated 400,000 people per year died from smallpox, and one-third of the cases resulted in blindness. In the 20th century, it is estimated the infectious spread of smallpox resulted in 300–500 million deaths. Edward Jenner discovered in 1798 a vaccination to prevent the spread smallpox. The last naturally occurring case of smallpox was reported in 1977. In 1980, the World Health Organization declared smallpox had been eradicated.
HIV/AIDS is among the most catastrophic public health challenges that humankind has ever faced. Approximately 30 million people with AIDS have died since the beginning of the pandemic. At the onset of the pandemic, ID specialists led the efforts in the development of numerous anti-retroviral drugs to treat HIV/AIDS, turning what was once a uniformly fatal disease into a manageable chronic condition for many. Today nearly 37 million people are living with HIV around the world. In the United States, 1.2 million people are living with HIV, of whom 13 percent are unaware of their diagnosis.
While there have been many medical and research advances in the treatment and prevention of infectious diseases, there is an urgent need to attract more brilliant minds to the field of ID.
Today, infectious diseases claim the lives of 17 million people every year; and this rate outpaces the number of new ID professionals entering the field. Without a strong pipeline of ID leaders, we are facing a looming healthcare crisis. With the incidence of drug-resistant superbugs on the rise and the emergence of new pathogens such as Ebola, there has never been a more important time to support the critical work of the IDSA Foundation and learn more about proactive steps you can take to reduce the effects of infectious diseases.
The IDSA Foundation knows the next generation of ID professionals will become the drivers of scientific discoveries, the leaders of public health programs throughout the world, and the astute clinicians on the front lines providing life-saving care, humanity is counting on. It is up to all of us to ensure we are equipped with the knowledge of how infectious diseases impacts our every day lives.
- It is estimated the U.S. will be short anywhere from 46,000 to 90,000 physicians by 2025. This indicates a significant need to recruit, educate, and train future leaders of ID by offering opportunities to learn and grow in the field.
- We now live in a global community. With the every day access of commercial airplanes for leisurely or business travel, the spread of an infectious disease can effect several countries and continents making it harder to control. Through public health education and policies, we can effectively reduce the number of global outbreaks.
- Sanitation is still a growing issue worldwide, from clean water to food handling and/or consumption. Through research, ID specialists can help identify possible infectious diseases and guide the regulations to promote safe consumption practices.