ATLANTA — With new diseases emerging every year and a reliance on some goods from overseas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must extend its vigilance and programs beyond U.S. borders, Director Thomas Frieden said.
Meeting Monday with regional fellows from the Association of Health Care Journalists, he cited global trade as one reason for the CDC to be concerned about what happens in other countries. About two-thirds of seafood comes from outside the U.S., and about 80 percent of prescriptions have some foreign component, Frieden said. Outbreaks of deadly Ebola virus seem far away but are not because of global travel, he said.
“These are deadly diseases that could be here in a plane trip,” he said. “All of these trends mean we have to be engaged in global health.”
Helping out during foreign disease outbreaks, such as plague in Uganda, also bolsters the U.S. image and improves goodwill with other countries, Frieden said.
There are emerging threats that could easily arrive on our shores, he said. One is the mosquito-borne virus chikungunya, which means “that which bends up” in the language of the Makonde, according to CDC, because those afflicted with it are often hunched over from painful attacks.
“It may well be the next big thing” to arrive here, Frieden said.
Also of concern is the spread of drug-resistant bacteria that are becoming increasingly hard to treat. Frieden pointed to Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, as a particular concern because of the ability to more easily share genetic resistance information between organisms. Bacteria have always been able to share small pieces of genetic information, but these can package it and ship it between them, said Dr. Mike Bell, the associate director for infection control in the CDC Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion.
“All of that resistance to seven to 12 drugs moves in a cartridge” among the bacteria, he said. “It means all of a sudden an entire suite of drugs is gone” from being effective against the bacteria.