Good News In Public Health

There was a lot to be concerned about in 2016, and it was no different for public health, the Zika virus, the bombing of hospitals in war zones, more diseases becoming resistant to antibiotics. Yet, there were public health good news too, and good news is good news, it’s important to underline it. There was the training of giant rats to detect tuberculosis. They had previously been trained to detect landmines, but were retrained to sniff out the mucus from people with tuberculosis and can be almost 100% accurate. The rats cannot however distinguish between normal strains of tuberculosis and drug resistant ones. Another positive development is the creation of CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic preparedness Innovations). The idea behind CEPI is to prevent new infectious diseases from becoming epidemic and to try to create new vaccines to that effect. The coalition is quite broad and includes governments, industry, philanthropies, international organizations. With Ebola and Zika, we learned how easily the public health systems can become overloaded and have an inadequate capacity to develop the needed defenses quickly enough. Then there is the good news that combating Malaria has made progress—with about half as many people dying from it as they did some 15 years ago. Progress has also been made with Dengue fever, guinea worm, river blindness, all diseases with horrible symptoms. Also among the good news are progress with a vaccine for Ebola and a herpes vaccine for shingles. While not all these developments touch our lives directly, given that the Zika virus reached the US, they illustrate that public health issues touch everyone—a good reason to highlight their victories