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To What Degree Does Globalization Increase Or Decrease The Spread Of Infectious Diseases?

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Globalization, international interaction and growing interdependence. It has spread many new concepts and factors throughout the world over the years, medicine has become better and more advanced, imports, exports and travel are easier and cheaper, technology is ongoingly improving and global collaboration is thriving. Although, have all these developments been positive throughout? Medicine’s advancements are highlighted and a great example of the effects of globalization, although there are two sides to these advancemnets, especially on the spread of infectious disease.

Globalization is often put and seen in a positive light, and rightfully so. One of the most considerably notable improvements which have occurred due to globalization would be the advancements which it posed on medicine. Vaccines and antibiotics have vastly improved, the way in which globalization has played a role in improving and developing these cures and preventative medications is through open communication and international collaboration. As mentioned, globalization has improved technology to great extents, and for that, we are able to communicate with others who are far from us, whether they are across cities, countries and continents. Scientists are able to work with each other in other to come up with solutions to outbreaks and other diseases in easier forms. An example of collaboration would be in April 2002, when the Institute of Medicine’s Forum on Emerging Infections had a workshop in which they discussed globalization’s influence on the spread and control of spreading diseases. Participants tackled topics like integrated trade, economic development, human movement, and cultural exchange on patterns of diseases which are emerging. This workshop also tackled ways to counter these outbreaks and examined scientific evidence which is currently in use to help these issues (“The National Academies Presents: What You Need to Know About Infectious Disease.”).

These advancements in medicine bring many benefits. One of the outcomes is the control and prevention of diseases. In fact if it is well carried out, the presence of certain diseases could be completely eliminated as a whole. Diseases which have used to cause chaos throughout many years have either been eradicated or prevented through different mediums such as vaccines. One great example would be the influenza virus. An outbreak occurred in 1918 which caused a pandemic, in the graph around 1920, there is a visible spike in deaths due to influenza (Appendix D). This happened after the end of World War I that had ended in November of that year, which had been ongoing since 1914 (Duda). This war could have caused for an easier manner for disease to spread due to many factors. A while after a vaccine was created and would be used as a preventative measure; it is commonly known as the flu shot. This influenza vaccine is re-developed every two years by scientists due to the velocity in which the virus mutates (“Influenza Vaccine.”). These vaccines which scientists have been developing worldwide have been able to create a safer environment throughout the globe. Nowadays 8 out 10 children in the world are immunized against half a dozen common, yet dangerous and often fatal diseases (A New Global Health Crisis). Money wise, it would in fact be better for nations to invest their money on trying to eradicate diseases rather than trying to control diseases in the long run (Appendix C). In support of this, a graph (Appendix B) showing the death rate in the US due to infectious diseases throughout 1900-1996 shows a major drop, especially in years which different vaccines for diseases like polio and penicillin which fights multiple types of infections.

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Globalization and medicine are a very good match, although this positive progress that the world has been experiencing for years now, like all good things, has negative factors to it. In the more recent years, public health officials have begun to grow very concerned with the way in which pathogenic microbes, which are microbes that cause disease, have started to show signs of antimicrobial resistance, which is when a microbe begins to resist against antibiotics and their effects which used to treat it. In fact, infectious diseases are still leading causes of death worldwide. (Appendix A). Diseases which have begun to re-emerge are also known as Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID’s), are a global risk towards global health as they include both newly emerging and re-emerging diseases which we have dealt with in the past but have mutated. Another issue with EID’s is especially in countries which are unstable due to things such as civil wars or other social conflicts, these countries are subjected to a far higher risk of an outbreak of these diseases (Fidler, 20). Travel is also far easier, 20 year ago only around 20% of the world’s population lived in areas where malaria was endemic, but now the number rose to 40% (“The National Academies Presents: What You Need to Know About Infectious Disease.”).

Animal imports and exports, like travel, are another problem with globalization and spreading disease. Animal trade is another great factor to globalization as it has become easier to do and safer as well. The US alone had imported 37,858,179 individually counted animals, including amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles from 2000 to 2004. In the US specifically, these imports are often for scientific studies and research rather than for domestic purposes although that does not mean there are no domestic imports. A prominent issue is that many of these animals brought in are considered “exotic”, often times when they are being shipped to a certain place, wild animals are mixed with captive-raised animals, and with that said once the animals arrive at US borders, there are no laws which require them to be tested for zoonotic diseases, which spread through both animals and humans. In 2003, after a shipment of African Gambian giant rats was brought to the US for a dealer led to the introduction and spread of monkeypox. The dealer also housed prairie dogs which soon fell ill as they were put along with the rats and so did the prairie dog owners and veterinarians which came into contact (Marano). Pests are another negative issue with these types of shipments. African land snails were imported to the US and released into farmlands and are now considered agricultural pests. This is due to the snails’ fast reproduction rates and the large amounts of vegetation the consume to sustain themselves, not only are they pests but they also host multiple types of parasites such as Angiostrongylus cantonensis. This parasite can be spread from snails to produce through the slime snails produce, if consumed the larvae will travel from the intestinal wall to the central nervous system. This causes Eosinophilic meningitis (Barratt), which is quite dangerous health wise.

In conclusion, I would like to bring attention back to the question at hand, “To what degree does globalization increase or decrease the spread of infectious diseases?”. Re-assessing the presented information, realistically globalization would be decreasing the spread of infectious diseases by introducing new measures and ways to prevent and stop these diseases from not only spreading but occurring in general and this is all because scientists all over the world are able to communicate easier and faster in order to put their heads together and come up with a functioning product. Although, there still are issues which cannot be neglected due to the gravity of the matter. These problems could be solved through means such as, implementing more or stronger international laws for things such as trade of wildlife, there already are some international rules by the the International Health Regulations but it only applies to cholera, yellow fever and cholera, therefore these rules should be extended to a further point to prevent more diseases (“Globalization, International Law, and Emerging Infectious Diseases – Volume 2, Number 2-April 1996 – Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal – CDC.”). The re-emerging disease strongly suggest that nations need to also come together, as it shows that sanitation, discovery of antibiotics, vaccines and so on, is not enough to stop these diseases and we must implement effective policies.

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