Tracking the daily rush of events can induce a kind of amnesia, and it's hard to maintain any kind of perspective on what we're concerned about at any given moment. So I've paused for a moment at midyear to look back at reports from the beginning of 2014.
H7N9 was still very much in the news, and a measles outbreak in the Philippines was a portent of prompt arrival in North America. Ebola was probably established in Guinea by then, but it had not yet come to serious attention.
MERS and chikungunya reports were relatively rare. In ECDC's Communicable Disease Threats Report for January 4, total MERS cases worldwide numbered 176, including 74 deaths. Then as now, Saudi Arabia was the focus, with 141 cases and 57 deaths.
Six months later, Saudi Arabia has confirmed 712 cases and 292 deaths: a quintupling of both cases and deaths.
Chikungunya in the Americas was barely one month old; the first two autochthonous cases had been reported on December 6. ECDC estimated that as of December 19, about 134 cases were scattered over just four islands plus one imported case in French Guiana.
Six months later, PAHO estimates over a quarter of a million chikungunya cases (Dr. John Carroll thinks Haiti alone has "millions" of cases). But only 21 deaths have been attributed to chikungunya.
Neither MERS nor chikungunya is likely to vanish by January 2015. Climate change and world trade and travel almost guarantee that chikungunya will become endemic wherever its vectors are established—which is almost everywhere from Buenos Aires to Chicago. MERS might be stopped dead, as SARS was, by identifying and eliminating the source. But If the source really is camels, good luck culling them; some kind of vaccine to protect camels would be the most politically acceptable response.
And by January 2015 it's a pretty safe bet that Flublogia will by worrying about still more emergent diseases: hantavirus, perhaps, or yet another variation of avian flu, or another coronavirus. They were all here before us, a viral army of genetic safecrackers, patiently spinning our dial until they find our combination. We do the same with them, of course. But our safecrackers are few, and theirs are numberless.