Superbugs Revisited


Though life expectancy worldwide is up, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recently issued another warning about drug-resistant bacteria, "superbugs". Gathering data from regional bodies in 114 member countries, it found that resistance thrives in all regions in the world, in some cases at "alarming levels". The cost in the United States alone is estimated at $21 to $34 billion USD a year, with more than 8 million additional hospital days for patients. Unfortunately, bacteria naturally evolve to develop drug-resistance, yet that phenomenon has been accelerated by the widespread use of antibiotics in humans and animals.

Also, WHO just announced a widespread and deadly outbreak of Ebola in West Africa---the first in humans.  Ebola is one of the world's most virulent diseases, causing high fever, vomiting, muscle pain, and diarrhea. Moreover, it can result in persistent internal bleeding and organ failure. There is no vaccine and has no known cure. Of the 635 cases of Ebola across three countries in the region, over 400 people have died.  WHO now has 150 people on the ground, however the disease is currently out of control.

The stigma of Ebola and its easy transmission through any kind of contact are complicating the situation. To make matters even worse, many communities practice traditional burial rituals, which can help spread the virus. Mourners touch, kiss and leave presents with the bodies that allow their exposure to bodily fluids, including sweat, saliva, or blood.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), which has launched mass media campaigns and even educating people door-to-door to combat the virus, is now calling for all the countries in the region to work together. Given the incubation time of up to three weeks and the mobility of people in the region, the serious concern is the spread to more countries.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East, as the pilgrims flock to Mecca and Medina, WHO issued a warning about MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). The United Nations health agency has recorded 701 confirmed cases and 249 deaths worldwide, the majority of them in Saudi Arabia. With literally millions of pilgrims descending on the region, the agency is justifiably concerned.

Unfortunately, this discussion does not end there. Last October. a public television program in the United States, Frontline's "Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria", highlighted three other superbugs. All are families of Gram-negative bacteria, the most dangerous today because they have stronger structural defenses. Expect the appearance of superbugs on the planet to threaten man's very existence. The public health agencies of countries around the world will be challenged to respond effectively.


Herman Trend Alerts are written by Joyce Gioia, a Strategic Business Futurist, Certified Management Consultant, author, and professional speaker.


Joyce Gioia is a Strategic Business Futurist concentrating on workforce and workplace trends. Joyce is President and CEO of The Herman Group, a firm serving a wide range corporate, trade association and governmental clients on an international basis.

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