A Look Ahead
Although the vast majority of the microbes we encounter every day cause no harm, those that do lead to illness or death cannot be ignored. Dramatic advances in sanitation, as well as science, technology, and medicine, have enabled us to make great strides in our struggle to prevent and control infectious diseases. Yet pathogens—old and new—are endlessly resourceful in adapting to and breaching our defenses. In addition, factors related to society, the environment, and our increasing global interconnectedness enhance the likelihood of disease emergence and spread. Moreover, it is a sad reality that today we must also grapple with the potential use of biological agents to do harm, human against human.
Prevention and control of infectious diseases are fundamental to individual, national, and global security. Failure to recognize—and act on—this essential truth will surely lead to disaster. The magnitude of the problem requires renewed and sustained commitment from policy makers, public health officials, and a concerned public. Despite past achievements, we have still not done enough in our own defense or in the defense of others. But in looking at our prospects, it is clear that the best defense against any disease outbreak will be a robust public health system, both in its science and practice. Sustained attention, dedication, and support will be essential. Only in this way will we be able to ensure the health and safety of our nation—and the world.