Impacts from Recent Disease Events

  • In 2003, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) sent a global shock wave, affecting countries with even few cases, such as the United States. Although SARS infected only 8,000 people globally, the disease spread to 30 countries and its effect on the global economy totaled $8 billion.

  • The United Kingdom’s economy has not yet recovered from a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in 2001, which also reverberated around the world, affecting both agricultural and nonagricultural interests (such as rural businesses and tourism/recreational use of the countryside).

  • A single case of mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE) in Washington State on December 23, 2003, had an immediate market impact and severe, sustained economic losses due to trade restrictions on U.S. cattle and their products. The infected animal was discovered as part of the government’s policy to routinely test downer cattle for BSE, which has been linked to a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a fatal neurological illness in humans. In June 2005, a second case of BSE was confirmed in the United States.

  • In 2004, a new strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI) spread through Southeast Asia, resulting in loss of more than 100 million birds through mortality and control measures and dozens of human cases, high-lighting the unpredictable and potentially catastrophic nature of an emerging zoonotic disease. This new influenza strain was transmitted from birds to people, raising concern that it might be capable of evolving into the next pandemic influenza strain.

  • In 1999, West Nile virus (WNV), an arbovirus similar to St. Louis encephalitis virus, emerged for the first time in the Western Hemisphere in New York from an unknown source. Over the next five years it swept across the continental United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and several Caribbean islands, carried by mosquito vectors infecting wild birds. In the United States in 2004, the virus was detected in approximately 2,250 humans (40 states), 1,250 horses (36 states), nearly 7,000 wild birds, mostly corvids (45 states), and in much smaller numbers in a few other animal species. While these numbers are substantially below those that occurred in the first wave of infection, WNV bodes to become endemic in wild birds and an ongoing source of infection transmitted to other species by mosquito vectors.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement