Monday, January 31, 2005

Dangers Old and New;
Pertussis and H5N1

Another Rationale for Universal Health Care

More than just a pesky cough
By Shari Roan
[LA] Times Staff Writer
January 31, 2005

The chronic, spastic cough started with what appeared to be a cold. A few months later, it was ruining Zachary Graham's life. The 16-year-old Sunapee, N.H., resident was often left gasping for air, gagging and unable to sleep. During one particularly ghastly coughing spell, Betty May Graham, Zachary's mom, feared her son was about to stop breathing.

That incident led the family to a lung specialist who delivered a diagnosis that stunned the Grahams: Zachary had pertussis, also known as whooping cough, a disease far better known in the 1930s than today.

"When the doctor said whooping cough, it kind of blew my mind," the teenager says. [...]

A vaccine introduced in the 1940s sent pertussis cases in this country plummeting to a low of 1,010 in 1976. But the disease roared back in the 1990s. According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10,000 cases were reported in 2003. 
About ten thousand cases of pertussis were diagnosed in the USA in 2003.  That probably is a subset of the true number of cases, since the disease often is mild in adults, and may not be diagnosed.  The disease used to cause almost 10,000 deaths per year in the USA.  We have made a lot of progress since then. 

Of course, we now face new threats.  Bird flu has been reported in 31 areas of Viet Nam, as well as in other Asian countries.  Recently, the first reported cases of human-to-human transmission were reported. 

In this post, I describe the dangers posed by pertussis and bird flu (strain H5N1) and illustrate how these and other diseases provide a rationale for universal health care.  Read the rest at The Rest of the Story