Via The Vancouver Sun, Helen Branswell of The Canadian Press writes: Bugs will travel: Public health watches foreign outbreaks because diseases move. Excerpt:
A Toronto grandmother came home from Hong Kong with SARS. A Colorado woman visited a Ugandan cave and brought back to the United States an alarming souvenir — Marburg fever, a cousin of Ebola. And now H5N1 bird flu has jumped the Pacific in the body of an Alberta woman.
If you ever wonder why public health officials worry about far-flung diseases — the latest bird flu, the new MERS coronavirus — the incidents above pretty much explain it.
Bugs travel. Or as public health folks like to put it, infectious diseases know no borders.
Sometimes they hitch rides in the lungs of unwitting and unwilling carriers, people like the unfortunate Alberta woman who contracted H5N1 flu in China during a visit to Beijing and died last week, or the Toronto woman who in 2003 stayed in the Metropole hotel at the same time as a doctor from China who was about to die from SARS.
Sometimes they travel in infected domestic animals. The movement of ducks and poultry in Asia certainly fuelled the spread of H5N1 throughout Southeast Asian poultry flocks in the mid-2000s.
They can even move in food: Canada's last foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, in 1952, is believed to have been started when an immigrant farm worker tossed the remains of a dried sausage he brought from Europe into a pig pen.
We humans move pathogens around, which means we don't have the luxury of dismissing an outbreak in some far off spot as "someone else's problem." It could too quickly be our problem too, experts say.