The majority of developed nations including the western world have for many years explained the emergence of infectious diseases using the production-of-disease theory. However, the disparity in society has affected both the spread patterns of infectious diseases as well as the causative agent. The outbreak of new strains of infectious diseases such as Ebola and tuberculosis suggests that the western assumptions have been narrow.
In order to understand the emergence and prevention of infectious diseases, disease management systems must be more robust and dynamic. Infectious diseases are evolving at an alarming rate. This calls for management regimes that are best suited to adapt to the complexity of emerging strains of infectious diseases. The assumption by the western nations that infectious diseases were diseases of the poor does not hold under prevailing conditions.
The assumption that emerging infectious diseases are new is also misplaced. For example, some infectious diseases such as Ebola were described long ago and are not new as wrongly assumed. Still, other diseases that are categorized as emerging have affected the human population for decades but have changed in the way they spread. The emergence of disease-resistant strains of old infectious diseases also shows that “new” infectious diseases do not necessarily emanate from pathogens. Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis is a case in point. Some infectious diseases are actually a result of advances in technology. Any person may get a new infection in a hospital setting in spite of their class or socio-economic level. Thus the assumption that infectious disease is a preserve of the poor people in society is misguided.
The models and assumptions of the western nations regarding infectious diseases need to change. There is a need to restructure the rigid western models to enable them to deal with the complexity and dynamism of infectious diseases. The models also need to be systematic if they are to deal with the emerging strains of old infectious diseases. The simple belief that antibiotics and other such drugs could cure infectious diseases must be dropped. The western power must rise to the realization that new strains of old infectious diseases are now emerging.
Abuse of drugs (overuse of antibiotics and taking incomplete dosage) has led to the emergence of drug-resistant strains. Global climate change and other anthropogenic activities have also resulted in the mutation of pathogens. Therefore, any study or treatment efforts of “emerging” infectious diseases need to be dynamic rather than static. Efforts must shift from looking at only individual variation in risk and susceptibility to other factors that favor the spread of infectious diseases. For example, it would be important to start paying more attention to behavioral choices (such as skipping TB treatment by infected people), disease spread patterns, and population health.
It is imperative to restructure the current methods of disease detection to enhance the monitoring of factors that may trigger infectious disease outbreaks. This will enable early detection of infectious diseases and enable quick response. The level of contribution to infectious diseases of other factors such as agricultural intensification increased global travel, and cross-border trade must be investigated.