Infectious Disease Threat

By George Grow

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

Experts say AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases are seriously affecting many nations. They say this could lead to humanitarian and military conflicts that threaten the security of the United States.

The experts reported their findings last month to a committee of the United States House of Representatives.

The American government has been studying the rise in infectious diseases worldwide for the past several years. Earlier this year, the Central Intelligence Agency released a report about the spread of infectious diseases and the effects on the United States. The CIA report says infectious diseases are a threat to the economies, security and political systems in many areas.

CIA official David Gordon said the worst infections are AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Mr. Gordon said those diseases are likely to slow development and threaten the social order in countries of interest to the United States. He said the diseases will create a health threat that could affect American and international security during the next twenty years.

The CIA official said the spread of infectious diseases is likely to cause social, economic and political problems. He said the most severe conditions will be in Africa south of the Sahara Desert, parts of Asia and countries of the former Soviet Union. Mr. Gordon noted that economic losses are already large and growing in many countries.

The World Health Organization says infectious diseases kill thirteen-million people worldwide each year. It says half of all deaths in developing nations are the result of such diseases.

The House International Relations Committee also heard from David Heymann (HAY-man) of the WHO. He said an important measure of economic growth for Africa would be one-hundred-million dollars greater if one disease -- malaria -- had been stopped years ago.

Doctor Heymann said the suffering and social problems resulting from infectious diseases are avoidable. He said doctors now have the knowledge and treatments to prevent or cure the most serious diseases.

The WHO official said a major international campaign could reduce deaths and disability from infectious diseases by fifty percent in the next ten years. He said such an effort would cost fifteen-thousand-million dollars.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by George Grow. This is Bill White.

Voice of America Special English