Zombies and the spread of deadly infections worldwide seems to be a trend in movies and television as the ways the human race will be defeated, but what is the real-life Center for Disease Control worried about? Here are the CDC and Prevention’s top 5 health threats for 2014:
1. Antibiotic-Resistant Infections
In a 2013 report from the CDC, two million people suffer from antibiotic-resistant infections per year, and 23,000 of them die. The more antibiotics are overprescribed to patients, the easier it is for bacteria to mutate and become a superbug, which is much more difficult to treat.
"There are infections out there that have become almost impossible to treat," Lauri Hicks, medical director of the CDC said in an interview for HealthDay. "We really are on the verge of going down a path where there may be nothing that works. Now we're seeing young, healthy people getting these highly resistant infections requiring hospitalization where in the past a simple oral antibiotic would have taken care of it."
To combat the increase in antibiotic-resistant infections, the CDC has a 4-course plan of action — reduce the risk of getting sick in the first place, keep better track of superbugs, decrease the amount of antibiotics that are prescribed unnecessarily, and develop new drugs so we stop relying so heavily on antibiotics.
2. Prescription Drug Abuse
Abusing and overdosing on prescription drugs has been a dangerous, yet common occurrence over the last few years, and is now the CDC’s second biggest health threat.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health says more than six million people abused prescription drugs over the last year with opioid-based pain killers as the most popular choice.
3. Global Health Security
The plot of The Walking Dead may not be too far from reality as the CDC is concerned with securing U.S. borders from fast-spreading deadly diseases this year. It plans to push for frequently visited overseas destinations to improve their infectious disease detection methods so there’s less of a chance of a deadly virus entering the country through tourism.
The dangers of the human papillomavirus, which include cervical cancers in women, can be found on posters all over gynecologists offices, yet very few people are getting vaccinated for it. The CDC had a goal of getting 80 percent of the population vaccinated by 2020, but so far we’re only at 33 percent.
I was surprised to see polio on the list considering it has been eliminated from the United States, but the CDC is still worried about the disease re-entering the country. To prevent a reoccurrence, the CDC wants to enter and help treat war-torn regions of the three countries that still remain deeply affected by polio — Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
So, if the CDC can prevent us from dying of antibiotic-resistant diseases, urge doctors not to over prescribe painkillers while convincing patients not to abuse them, protect U.S. borders from any potentially fatal diseases we aren’t aware of yet as well as polio, and convince men and women to get vaccinated for HPV, then they can consider 2014 a great success in their books.