Communicable Diseases in the US: Health Policy Brief

Introduction

Communicable diseases are some of the major challenges facing the health sector in the United States. Such diseases affect human health significantly, which explains why public health policymakers are concerned. Communicable diseases are classified as diseases that can be passed from one person to another through different mediums (Healthy People 2020, 2018). The common modes of transmission of these diseases include bodily fluids and contaminated food, water, objects, and air. In other words, these diseases are infectious.

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The common communicable diseases that spread from person to person include hepatitis, tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as HIV, syphilis, and gonorrhea. Animal to humanly transmitted diseases include yellow fever, malaria, and plague among others.

Infectious diseases contribute significantly to morbidity and mortality rates in any given population. With close to 100 documented communicable diseases, effective measures and policies should be put in place to address this health problem. One of the ways to address the issue of communicable diseases is through vaccination programs to ensure that people are sufficiently protected against the spread of such illnesses. On the other hand, awareness should be created to ensure that people lead responsible lifestyles, such as having protected sex to counter the spread of STDs. This paper focuses on some of the major communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and Ebola. These two communicable diseases are important due to their adverse health implications in the United States and around the world.

Background

Ebola is one of the deadliest communicable diseases that threaten the well-being of human beings. From 2014 to 2016, West Africa experienced an epidemic of Ebola virus disease (EVD), which was the largest to ever be recorded (Cohen et al., 2016). While this outbreak occurred outside the United States, the world is interconnected and Africa is a preferred tourist destination for most travelers. In a study conducted by Régner, Ianos, Shajrawi, Brouqui, and Gautret (2018), it was established that most tourists traveling to West Africa are not aware of countries affected by EVD.

This lack of knowledge exposes the travelers to the disease in case they visit the affected countries. For instance, in October 2014 the first case of Ebola was reported in the United States after an infected healthcare worker visited different public spaces. The humanitarian aid worker had volunteered in Guinea where she contracted the disease (Cohen et al., 2016). In the light of this information, it suffices to state that people in the United States at local, state, and national levels are at risk of contracting Ebola even though outbreaks are confined to West Africa.

The number of new HIV infections in the United States is around 50,000 cases annually (Hall et al., 2017). This trend increases the prevalence rate of the disease around the country. Gay and bisexual men diagnosed with HIV account for the highest number of new infections. For instance, in 2016, this group of individuals accounted for 67 percent of all the reported new cases of infection (CDC, 2018). On the other hand, heterosexuals together with people who inject drugs (PWID) are the second largest group of individuals affected by HIV. According to CDC (2018), in 2016, 24 percent of new cases of HIV were associated with heterosexual contact while PWID accounted for 9 percent.

Problem Statement

One of the challenges with some communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and Ebola, is that they do not have known vaccines, cures, or treatment. Therefore, even when outbreaks are contained, they are likely to reoccur from time to time. Consequently, lasting solutions are needed to address the problem of communicable diseases for improved health outcomes in the United States and beyond.

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Solutions

The key stakeholder in the fight against communicable diseases is the World Health Organization (WHO) and it works with other relevant government and non-governmental bodies to ensure that appropriate measures have been taken for improved health outcomes. In the US, the Department of Health is responsible for the containment of communicable diseases. On the other hand, one of the major NGOs that are involved in the fight against communicable diseases is the Bill Gates Foundation, which avails resources towards the fight of these diseases. One of the solutions for addressing the problem of communicable diseases is vaccination programs.

This aspect ensures that populations are protected against possible outbreaks. The other solution is the creation of awareness. For instance, people at risk of contracting diseases such as HIV/AIDS should be educated on the dangers of risky behaviors like having unprotected sex. In addition, resources should be allocated to ensuring safety practices including availing condoms and other protective materials for safe sex. Additionally, awareness should be created among tourists to ensure that they know countries with outbreaks and take safety measures or avoid traveling altogether.

Impact on the Health Care Delivery System

Some communicable diseases have no known cure or vaccines, and thus preventive and quarantine approaches are used at times of outbreaks. For instance, Ebola outbreaks affect the healthcare delivery system negatively. Such outbreaks are quick and unpredictable. On the other hand, HIV/AIDS has no cure and even though antiretroviral drugs play an important role in the management of the disease, the infected individuals require continued care attention. More resources are needed to build a robust healthcare delivery system that can be prepared to contain and treat communicable diseases as they emerge.

References

CDC. (2018). HIV in the United States: At a glance. Web.

Cohen, N. J., Brown, C. M., Alvarado-Ramy, F., Bair-Brake, H., Benenson, G. A., Chen, T. H., … Cetron, M. S. (2016). Travel and border health measures to prevent the international spread of Ebola. Supplements, 65(3), 57-67.

Hall, H. I., Song, R., Tang, T., An, Q., Prejean, J., Dietz, P., … Mermin, J. (2017). HIV trends in the United States: Diagnoses and estimated incidence. JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, 3(1), 1-23. Web.

Healthy People 2020. (2018). Immunization and infectious diseases. Web.

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Régner, I., Ianos, O., Shajrawi, L., Brouqui, P., & Gautret, P. (2018). Travelers’ actual and subjective knowledge about risk for Ebola virus disease. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 24(9), 1750-1751. Web.

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