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Finally, there is a significant risk that an animal strain of flu could
mutate and become transmissible between humans potentially killing millions3.

A mutated strain would potentially be more deadly, something that will be
looked at later on in this essay. This conclusion can be made from the
‘Trade-off’ hypothesis’ that states, from an evolutionary aspect, pathogens are
forced to make certain compromises8. The most notable of these is
between transmission and virulence (how deadly the disease is), that in order
to spread more efficiently a disease must evolve a lesser virulence to kill
fewer hosts8. Thus one can see that it is less likely that an
endemic disease would be responsible for an extinction level pandemic. However,
this theory has its flaws and is yet to be fully justified. For example in 1950
a biological control agent, the myxoma virus, was released into Australia to
kill rabbits- this disease attenuated (lost virulence) thus reinforcing the
hypothesis. However, in 1995 the Rabbit Haemorrhagic
Disease Virus, released for the same purpose, actually increased in virulence
through time.

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The World Health Organization collects information on global deaths by International Classification of Disease (ICD) code categories. The following table lists the top infectious disease by number of deaths in 2002. 1993 data is included for comparison

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