Today, Infectious diseases such as respiratory illnesses, the common cold, sexually transmitted diseases, and skin infections continue to exert a substantial toll on the Nation’s health and healthcare resources. Between 1980 and 2014, more than 4 million people lost their lives to infectious diseases. Specifically, Lyme disease has increased steadily since 2010, food poisoning from salmonella has been on the rise since 1960, sexually transmitted infections like syphilis have increased since 2002, and hepatitis A, B, and C have all been on the rise since 2010. The U.S. has seen a significant drop in mortality caused by infectious diseases over the years; however, new and re-emerging infectious diseases have surfaced recently. The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, has affected minorities disproportionately since 2019. Out of the 880,000 Americans who lost their lives to the pandemic, more than 750,000 were from minority groups across the country. Minorities in the U.S., especially those living in economic poverty, rural areas, and healthcare workers, are all more at risk for infections.
Barriers related to healthcare access, cultural and linguistic exclusion, physical inaccessibility, inequities in the distribution of public health services, and inadequate health education and health literacy contribute to increased cases of infectious diseases in the U.S. Individuals more at risk for infectious diseases are children (under 18), expectant mothers, healthcare workers, those living in areas with high exposure to pathogens, and those living with suppressed immune systems. Recent emerging infectious diseases include HIV, dengue fever, SARS, Zika virus, whooping cough, and COVID-19. Climate change, changing land-use patterns, and rapid urbanization has caused a drastic increase in the emergence of diseases, allowing infectious diseases to thrive in our communities.
Strategies to decrease infectious disease include increasing equitable healthcare and vaccine access. Reversing the burden of infectious diseases calls for safe sex practices, vaccinations, proper building ventilation, wearing masks, washing hands well, proper food safety and regulation, and community-based infectious diseases prevention programs.