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New Infectious Diseases on the Rise

Infectious diseases have been discovered at a blistering
pace in recent years, and global health experts worry that we're looking in the
wrong places for them.

A new study shows that since 1940, scientists have identified 335 emerging
infectious diseases in people.

Those diseases include severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Ebola, HIV
(the virus that causes AIDS), West Nile
virus , and methicillin-resistant staph (MRSA ).

Many of the newfound diseases -- 71% -- started in wildlife and are
becoming more common. Drug-resistant strains of infectious diseases are also on
the rise, note the researchers, who included Kate Jones, PhD, of the Zoological
Society of London.

Most of the infectious disease discoveries were made in Western countries,
and those discoveries peaked in the 1980s. But Jones and colleagues are
particularly concerned about the unknown infectious diseases that are
still out there, especially in countries without the resources for finding

The researchers recommend bolstering infectious disease surveillance in
"hotspots" such as tropical Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

"The benefits would not just be felt locally: in an era of increasing
globalization, emerging infectious diseases are everybody's problem,"
writes Professor Mark Woolhouse, PhD, of the Centre for Infectious Diseases at
Scotland's University of Edinburgh, in an editorial published with the study in

By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
©2005-2006 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved

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