According to a recent study by researchers at Princeton University published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in August 2021, extreme pandemics like COVID-19 will become more common and more intense in the near future. The researchers estimate the chance of someone born today will be experiencing a pandemic similar to COVID-19 in their lifetime at 38% – a figure that may double in coming decades.
Among the factors that are increasing the likelihood of pandemics are increased global travel, urbanization, climate change, increased human-animal contact, and health worker shortages. (Here are the states with the fewest and most doctors per person.)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks the development of diseases and outbreaks both in the U.S. and abroad. An outbreak is defined as an instance when there are more cases of a disease than expected in a specific location over a specific time period. To determine current outbreaks in the United States, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the CDC’s Current Outbreak List. Currently, the CDC lists 11 major ongoing investigations into U.S.-based outbreaks. The outbreaks are ordered by date reported.
Many of the most recent outbreaks involve foodborne illnesses spread across multiple states. Examples include norovirus from raw oysters harvested in Galveston Bay in Texas, Listeria infections from enoki mushrooms imported from Korea, and Brucella infections from raw milk products sold in the United States.
Other alarming outbreaks concern everyday consumer products. While the health risks of vaping are well known and lung injury due to e-cigarette use was declared an outbreak in August 2019, a more recent outbreak involves popular eye drop brands.
According to the CDC, infections caused by a rare drug-resistant strain of the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa present in bottles of artificial tears has caused widespread eye pain, blurry vision, and, in some cases, more severe symptoms, including death. As of March 2023, 68 infections have been reported in the United States, including eight reports of vision loss, four reports of surgical eye removal, and three deaths. (Also see, the most common cancers in America and their survival rates.)