This newsletter looks at two health issues that have also impacted aviation and travel. Although the first – Antibiotic-resistant bacteria – is less related to travel today, the 2003 SARS outbreak, which was successfully contained, initially was a “travel related” scare. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria with the potential to cause untreatable infections pose "a catastrophic threat" to the population, England's chief medical officer warns in a report calling for urgent action worldwide. If tough measures are not taken to restrict the use of antibiotics and no new ones are discovered, said Dame Sally Davies, "we will find ourselves in a health system not dissimilar to the early 19th century at some point".
While antibiotics are failing, new bacterial diseases are on the rise. Although the "superbugs" MRSA and C difficile have been reduced to low numbers in hospitals, there has been an alarming increase in other types of bacteria including new strains of E coli and Klebsiella, which causes pneumonia. As many as 5,000 patients die each year in the UK of gram negative sepsis – where the bacterium gets into the bloodstream – and in half the cases the bacterium is resistant to drugs
The 2003 SARS outbreak was the first major international health emergency in which the W.H.O. was able to take full advantage of the Internet age. It was detected early because of recently established Web-based systems trawling for unusual health events. It occurred at a time when health authorities around the world — experienced in earlier collaborative efforts to halt the spread of meningitis, yellow fever, polio and the Ebola virus — were on the alert and ready to respond.