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It's not just Ebola. Thousands of outbreaks are threatening communities across the globe.

August 15, 2014

    Paige Baschuck, Daily Briefing

    The deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa—widely ignored when it first began—is now on the front pages of newspapers across the globe. Fears of the disease's spread have taken hold, even though experts say it's unlikely that a large outbreak will occur outside of Africa.

    Troops cordon off Ebola-struck areas—a tactic unseen since 1918

    The Ebola outbreak should get the kind of coverage it is getting. But there are many other outbreaks that aren't getting the same kind of scrutiny.

    A quick glance at HealthMap—the app that spotted the Ebola outbreak in West Africa before the World Health Organization (WHO) did—shows that there are at least 1,663 alerts for outbreaks reported across the world in the last week (although many of those are reports of Ebola fears).

    Meanwhile, WHO is monitoring outbreaks of more than 15 types of diseases, including coronavirus infections, meningitis, and cholera. And CDC—which has responded to more than 750 health threats in the past two years—currently has more than 30 travel alerts because of infectious disease outbreaks.

    CDC names five lesser-known infections as public health 'priorities'

    Here are some of the outbreaks affecting each of the continents.


    Ebola in West Africa: 1,975 cases and 1,069 deaths.
    It is the biggest story out of Africa because it is the deadliest disease on the continent. As of Aug. 13, there were 1,975 cases and 1,069 deaths in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, according to WHO. Several other countries, including the United States, have experienced Ebola scares after travelers from Ebola-stricken countries came down with Ebola-like symptoms, but there have been no confirmed cases outside of Africa yet. CDC Director Thomas Frieden says the untreatable, deadly disease poses "little risk" to the United States. Nonetheless, the agency has issued guidelines on how U.S. hospitals can prepare.

    Hepatitis E in Ethiopia: 367 cases and 13 deaths.
    Ethiopia is suffering from a growing Hepatitis E outbreak—mostly among Sudanese refugees living in refugee camps. In Sudan, the outbreak is even worse. Since April, there have been nearly 400 cases and 13 deaths. The incurable liver disease causes fever, nausea, vomiting, and jaundice.


    H5N1 in Southeast Asia: Nearly 300 cases.
    Once confined largely to Australia and China, the avian flu H5N1 in 2014 spread rapidly through Southeast Asia, infecting people of Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam particularly hard. Indonesia has nearly 200 confirmed cases, Cambodia 56, and Vietnam 127, according to the latest WHO data. H5N1 causes cough, fever, sore throat, muscle aches, and, in severe cases, pneumonia that may be fatal.

    H7N9 in China: Nearly 500 cases and at least 75 deaths.
    Since the spring of 2013, nearly 500 people mostly in China have been infected with H5N1's deadlier sister flu, and at least 75 have died.  The flu causes fever, wheezing, headache, and muscle pains.

    Middle Eastern Respiratory Symptom: More than 800 cases and nearly 300 deaths.
    The coronavirus first appeared in Qatar in 2012 and has since spread across the Middle East, Europe, and even America—with two cases in the United States, both involving travelers who had visited the Middle East. There have been at least 837 lab-confirmed cases and nearly 300 related deaths, according to the latest WHO data. Currently there is no vaccine and no cure for MERS. Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, diarrhea, and fever.


    Flu: Nearly 21,000 cases.
    With winter ending down under, Australia is at the height of its flu season—nearly 21,000 cases have been reported in Australia in 2014. The flu causes fever, cough, chills, and body aches. It may cause death in patients with weakened immune systems.


    Norovirus in Finland: More than 1,000 cases.
    More than 1,000 people in Finland contracted norovirus after swimming in four local lakes. The mass illness prompted government officials to ban swimming in the lakes, but the signs have since been removed. The stomach bug causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

    Traveling abroad this summer? Here's how to stay healthy.

    North America

    Whooping cough in California: Nearly 7,000 cases and three deaths.
    In California in this year, there have been nearly 7,000 whooping cough cases, 200 hospitalizations, and three deaths. Health experts are attributing the vaccine-preventable outbreak largely to the trend of parents forgoing vaccines for various reasons. The ailment causes runny nose, cough, and fever.

    West Nile virus in several U.S. states: At least 63 cases and seven deaths.
    At least 37 states and the District of Columbia are reporting cases of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus—there have been 63 confirmed cases this year and seven deaths, CDC says. California, Arizona, South Dakota, and Louisiana are experiencing the most cases. Symptoms include abdominal pain, fever, lack of appetite, and rash.

    Busting five mosquito myths to keep you healthy

    Hantavirus in Canada: Four cases and two deaths.
    Canada is experiencing a small, but highly deadly a hantavirus outbreak. The animal-borne virus has killed two of the four lab-confirmed cases of the virus in Saskatchewan. In 2012, Yosemite National Park in California experienced a hantavirus outbreak and several visitors died. The virus causes headache, fever, chills, and breathing problems as the lungs fill with fluid.

    South America

    Chikungunya. More than 570,000 cases.
    This mosquito-borne virus has spread rapidly throughout the Caribbean, South America, and North America infecting more than 570,000 people in just eight months, according to federal health officials. As of Aug. 12, CDC has confirmed 584 cases in the United States (all involving people who traveled to the Caribbean and South America). The virus—which has no vaccine and no cure—has just as easily spread below the equator—where numbers are not as clear. Local mosquitoes on both continents are aiding in its spread, health officials say. Symptoms include fever, muscle pain, joint swelling, rash, and headache. 

    Chikungunya is spreading throughout the U.S. Here are the states most affected

    Dengue fever in Brazil: More than 640,000 cases.
    There have been more than 640,000 cases of dengue fever in Brazil this year, according to the Pan American Health Organization. In one week alone, 213 people died of the disease in the South American nation. Last year, the country reported 1.4 million cases.

    For the record, Antarctica does not appear to be reporting any outbreaks among humans. But there has been an outbreak of avian cholera among its penguin population.

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