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CDC Lists Most Challenging Public-Health Threats of 2014

Smoking remains leading cause of preventable death and disease in U.S.

It’s been an unprecedented year for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the agency continues its emergency response to the most complex Ebola epidemic in history. Ebola, however, is not the only critical mission the CDC undertook in 2014.

In a digital press kit released December 15, the agency reviewed its responses to the most important public-health challenges of 2014.

New Infectious-Disease Threats

  • With 170 staff in the field and more than 700 people working on Ebola at any one time, the CDC’s response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the largest in the agency’s history. “Americans will be 100% safe only when we succeed in stopping Ebola at its source in West Africa,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH.
  • The CDC has made important progress against antibiotic resistance, but resistant bugs remain a serious threat. Combating antibiotic resistance and preventing healthcare-associated infections remains a critical CDC initiative for 2015. “Every day we don’t act to better protect antibiotics will make it harder and more expensive to address drug resistance in the future,” said Beth P. Bell, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. “Drug resistance can undermine both our ability to fight infectious diseases and much of modern medicine.”
  • Enterovirus D-68 (EV-D68) is a previously rare virus that mostly affects American children, and it is particularly severe in children with asthma. The CDC’s investigations into EV-D68 have been aided by a CDC-developed rapid lab test that can detect the virus.
  • Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), a new viral respiratory illness that was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, showed a dramatic increase in cases during 2014. “In this interconnected world we live in, we expected MERS-CoV to make its way to the United States. We have been preparing since 2012 for this possibility,” Frieden said.

Continued Fight Against Infectious Diseases

  • The HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to be one of the world’s most important public health challenges. Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the CDC has helped support life-saving antiretroviral treatment for 7.7 million people and has supported HIV testing and counseling for more than 56.7 million people during fiscal year 2014. “We are beginning to turn the tide on the HIV pandemic, and saving millions of lives in doing so,” Frieden said.
  • The world is on the brink of eliminating polio. “If we eradicate polio in the next few years, we’ll not only eliminate a crippling disease for generations to come, but have an estimated global savings of $40 billion to $50 billion over the subsequent 20 years,” said Gregory Armstrong, MD, incident manager for CDC’s polio eradication response. “The finish line is in sight and will be a gift to every generation to come.”

Leading Causes of Death

  • Nearly 800,000 Americans die each year from cardiovascular disease. In 2014, the CDC’s Million Hearts campaign encouraged the widespread adoption and use of standardized treatment protocols for improving blood pressure control. “Simple, evidence-based treatment protocols can have a powerful impact in improving blood pressure control and in reducing deaths from heart attack and stroke,” said Janet S. Wright, MD, Executive Director of Million Hearts.
  • Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S., killing more than 480,000 people each year. In 2014, the CDC continued its national tobacco-education campaign –– “Tips From Former Smokers” –– with hard-hitting new ads featuring secondary health conditions people may not realize are related to smoking. “These new ads are powerful. They highlight illnesses and suffering caused by smoking that people don’t commonly associate with cigarette use,” Frieden said. “Smokers have told us these ads help them quit by showing what it’s like to live every day with disability and disfigurement from smoking.”
  • A silent epidemic of fatal overdose kills 44 people every day in the U.S. In 2014, the CDC joined with partners to improve prescription-drug monitoring, thereby reducing unnecessary prescriptions. “Prescription drug overdose is epidemic in the United States,” Frieden said. “All too often, and in far too many communities, the treatment is becoming the problem. States where prescribing rates are highest need to take a particularly hard look at ways to reduce the inappropriate prescription of these drugs that are dangerous when misused or abused.”

Source: CDC; February 15, 2014.

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