With Zika virus dominating headlines, the Big Cities Health Coalition reached out to Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer at Public Health – Seattle & King County, to discuss some of the unique challenges in the U.S. arising from the sudden emergence of this virus. We’ve excerpted it here (read the full interview on their Frontlines blog):
It seems like every year or so, there’s a new global infectious disease outbreak, like Ebola or MERS, and now Zika. Why is this, and what should we be prepared to do about it?
Part of this is due to the increased encroachment of humans on new habitats coupled with increased ease of regional and global travel, creating more opportunities for disease to spread. Humans and disease-carrying organisms are coming into more contact through urbanization and deforestation. Climate change has facilitated the movement of vectors like mosquitoes to broader habitats. And microorganisms have been adapting to be resistant to some of the treatments that have worked in the past.
To be effective in our response to infectious diseases, we must invest in a stronger public health system at the federal, state and local levels. State and local public health departments are on the front lines in our communities. We do surveillance to track and monitor diseases, update and coordinate our partners in hospitals and healthcare, provide public information and education, and operationalize federal guidance and plans on the local level.