It's easy to imagine that the U.S. has eliminated almost all of the terrifying, infectious diseases that exist, and that these diseases only crop up in places far, far away. But I've got bad news: There are actually quite a few very scary diseases in the U.S. While we don't exactly need to wear surgical masks to protect ourselves from infection, it's probably good to keep in mind the odd illnesses are still creeping around the country, many of which we'd figured were long gone. Some diseases thought to be eradicated in the U.S. can return, especially when Americans are no longer being vaccinated for them — yes, I'm talking about the California measles outbreak — and some just never leave.
The recent Ebola outbreak sounded terrifying and left a ton of people panicking, but it didn't actually pose a serious threat to Americans. The Ebola outbreak was largely contained in West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Only ten people were treated for Ebola in the U.S., and just two of those died from the disease. Not to freak you out, but there are plenty of diseases still in the United States that we should be much more frightened about. Don't believe me?
On July 2, the Washington State Department of Health confirmed the first Measles-related death in the U.S. since 2003. Measles is highly contagious and is quickly spread when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. The viral infection causes a skin rash, inflamed eyes, sore throat, runny nose, dry cough, and fever. Measles was thought to be wiped out in the U.S. in 2000, but has made a comeback now that many children aren't being vaccinated.
Mumps is another illness that continues to survive due to a lack of vaccinations, although it's not nearly as common as it used to be. In 2012, there were 229 cases of the mumps in the U.S. and from 2011 to 2013 there were multiple outbreaks on college campuses in California, Virginia, and Maryland. Mumps leads to swollen and painful salivary glands, fever, headache, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
Cytomegalovirus, or CMV, is a "silent" virus, meaning most people that have it don't show any signs of infection. However, pregnant women can pass CMV on to their babies, which leads to developmental problems like hearing and vision loss, problems with the liver, spleen, or lungs, and seizures in some cases.
Only two patients have ever tested positive for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the U.S., but they both happened to be last year, one in Indiana and one in Florida. Both patients were healthcare workers who traveled to America from Saudi Arabia, and both fully recovered. MERS is a severe respiratory illness that causes fever, cough, shortness of breath, and gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and kidney failure.
Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control, with an estimated 300,000 infections every year. The disease is contracted through ticks, and is most prevalent in New England and the Midwest. While the initial symptoms are flu-like problems and a rash, the infection is really scary because of issues that can develop later on, including neurological problems like inflammation of the membranes surrounding your brain, temporary paralysis of one side of your face, numbness or weakness in your limbs, and impaired muscle movement.
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