Almost every person in today's society has been affected by the common cold at one time or another. The symptoms could include a headache or a fever. Usually it yields to the immune system, thus letting the carrier return to the daily routine that is followed. However, imagine a disease so lethal, that every person who comes in with it perishes. This is the risk that a majority of the world takes without even knowing it. Whether its through travel, trade, or tourism, humans put themselves in great danger of introducing old and new pathogens into today's fast-paced society. The ability to travel around the globe in a matter of hours increases the probability of a deadly microbe disseminating around the world, killing millions in its path. Despite the precautions that tourists and merchants take when traveling abroad, the ever increasing mobility of humans in today's society is, and will always be, the biggest threat to global disease epidemics. Although ships are used to transfer people and goods safely from one port to another, the latter can also transport man's greatest enemy. A ship can not rely on shape to help it stay afloat. Ballast tanks are needed. These tanks are designed to open and close to help fluctuate the height of the ship. When a tank floods with water, it permits a ship to safely cruise under a low lying bridge. Besides the water, many organisms especially microbes are taken in as well (Bright *). Since many waterborne diseases such as cholera and dengue fever live in aquatic habitats, ships pose one of the biggest threats in the spreading of disease. Even though ballast tanks pose a great danger on cargo and freighting ships, containers play an equal role in the spreading of disease. Huge on-board storage containers used to transport seeds and grain have been recognized as superhighways for many small creatures. The Asian tiger mosquito is a belligerent insect that can carry at least 17 different viral diseases including encephalitis and malaria (Bright *). Unless society fails to see the risk that containers cause when ships travel abroad, maladies of all kinds will start making lethal manifestations. More than 28,000 ships make up the world's major source of trade and transportation. On any given day, a ship's wake is transporting approximately 3,000 different species including pathogens (Bright *). Such a high abundance of microbial life transported on ships could pose numerous problems in the future.. Transportation-related outbreaks are not contemporary as the spread of diseases through sea travel spans many centuries. Smallpox, a terrible disease that traveled the world on ships, caused many physical deformities in the hundreds of millions it killed in the twentieth century (Armelagos *). Every ship docks in a port, and every port connects to a city, and every city connects to the world. Dr. Richard Horton states that, "...mega-cities are global cities in every sense; they are part of an international system of trade and communication - and disease. They have no limits; air travel and other routes of transportation have rendered their influence and vulnerability boundless" (*). Thousands of people travel to cities everyday for business or pleasure. If just one person were the host of an infectious disease, an epidemic could surface. That person could travel to almost any other city by means of air travel and inadvertently propagate this disease. This is the problem that human beings face daily because, "The greatest threat to the health of human's are cities, providing fertile breeding grounds for the deadliest known germs" (Horton *). Cities are probably the greatest danger in the spread of diseases, because of the high population density. "The city is the bug's dream come true and the human's greatest weakness" (Horton *). Unless more vigorous precautions are implemented regarding the global travel of ships and the mobility of humans in cities, the emergence of a deadly microbe is not probable, it is inevitable. Although trade and transportation are a necessity for every person to survive in today's society, it is also the world's leading cause of epidemics. "Through international travel, global commerce, and accelerating destruction of ecosystems people are inadvertently exposing themselves to a Pandora's box of infectious diseases" (Armelagos *). As a whole society continually tries to move faster and faster when it comes to transportation and trade. It seems normal that people would want to move faster to accomplish things, but in reality are slowing themselves down because diseases that surface in the process must be eliminated. Today's transportation is posing a bigger threat than ever before (McCusker *). Only recently have malignant viruses started to pose transit-associated outbreaks. Even though faster transportation may appear to be helpful, it enables diseases to disperse easily around the world (Dadachanji *). In most cases, deadly diseases kill in a few days so the host has little time to come in with others. However, now that transportation is increasing, the carrier has a greater chance of spreading the disease because, "With the advent of modern transportation, a disease that emerges in one part of the world can potentially be spread to any other part in a day's journey" (Dadachanji *). This heightens the prospect of a pandemic in the near future. Alone, 16.4 million people die yearly because of diseases (Bright *). An outbreak caused by increasing transportation would make that number look small.
Besides traveling for business, tourism is an equally dangerous problem arising in today's populace. Many tourists like to explore wilderness areas when vacationing, especially exotic places such as the Amazon. Professor Christopher Wills of the University of California states that, "The tropics are hot and humid, which allows disease organisms to multiply swiftly, so that they can easily contaminate food and water supplies" (Wills 272). When tourists wander into the wilderness, the possibility of entering the habitat of a conceivably dangerous disease increases. All a pathogen needs is to get a ride on a sightseer's shoe to start a worldwide epidemic (Platt *). Outbreaks occur because of one obvious factor. The host organism unknowingly spreads an invisible killer that nobody knows anything about, including the area in which it will surface in (Platt *). Since epidemics and their severity appear hard to predict, the world will not realize the harm caused by transportation until it is too late. Although epidemiologists and microbiologists have conquered many viruses, there is still a handful of extremely fatal diseases looming in the horizon. Roughly 150 deadly viruses exist. In addition, 1,000 more just as lethal await discovery (Platt *). The Ebola virus poses one of the biggest threats in today's society. It kills in roughly 10 days. At the heightof the illness the patient is begins to bleed from various places including the eyes and nose. Once the patient starts to hemorrhage, death is sure to follow (Rollin *). A disease like this would surely eradicate a vast majority of people if it were interjected into society. In fact, the Ebola virus is responsible for two deadly outbreaks, one in Yambuku, Zaire, and one in Kikwit, Zaire (Rollin *). If a disease such as Ebola were to surface in a large city, the world could be subject to an inextricable outbreak from which recovery would be minimal. Many more dangerous diseases are starting to emerge due to transportation. Dengue fever, which is contracted through the Asian tiger mosquito, is responsible for nearly 23,000 deaths every year (Bright *). The nefarious influenza virus caused one of the most severe outbreaks ever. In 1918, 21 million people perished in a few months (Armelagos *). Today, an influenza virus of that magnitude would kill many more millions than it did in 1918. Dr. Moshe Ipp states that, "If China is considered to be the likely source of the next [influenza] pandemic, the relaxation of trade and tourism in that country would surely spread the virus to other countries more quickly than in the past. Furthermore, the vastly increased air passenger services between countries must mean that the virus will spread around the globe more quickly than before" (*). It is just a question of when this will occur. Two additional infectious diseases, cholera and malaria, are slowly gaining momentum in the human populace. In 1991, ballast water from an Asian ship released cholera into Peru, which in turn killed 10,000 people (Bright *). Malaria is also flourishing. In Africa and Asia, the latter has infected a great number of people (Crossette *). The threat of emerging diseases will increase with every stride in transportation. When the next outbreak occurs, the disease will be able to spread so rapidly that the human race will be vulnerable and unprepared to handle it. Although society employs many safeguards when traveling to other countries, continually increasing travel poses a major threat to the health and future welfare of the world. Major sources of transit, such as airplanes and ships, are transporting diseases from one part of the globe to another. The contributing factor for the increase of diseases can be blamed on people's ignorance and the increase of trade and transportation in society. The threat of microbes in today's populace is constantly increasing. Infectious diseases, previously thought to have been conquered, are now surfacing in all parts of the globe, and could in the foreseeable future wreak havoc upon the world. Works CitedArmelagos, George. "The viral superhighway." New York Academy of Sciences Jan./Feb. 1998. Online. ProQuest Direct. (25 Mar. 1999).Bright, Chris. "Crawling out of the pipe." World Watch Jan./Feb. 1999. Online. ProQuest Direct. (25 Mar. 1999).Crossette, Barbara. "U.N. and World Bank Unite to Wage War on Malaria." New York Times 31 Oct. 1998: A4. Abstracted in RGA Full Text Mini Ed. CD-ROM. Wilsondisc. Feb. 1999.Dadachanji, Dinshaw K. "Fighting the implacable foe." The World and I Oct. 1998. Online. ProQuest Direct. (25 Mar. 1999).Horton, Richard. "The Global Threat - The coming plague: newly emerging diseases in a world out of balance." The New York Review of Books 6 April 1995. Online. ProQuest Direct. (6 April 1999).Ipp, Moshe. "The Next Influenza Pandemic." Online. http://www.utoronto.ca/kids/influenza.html> (7 April 1999).McCusker, Michael. E-mail interview. 16 April 1999.Platt, Anne. "The resurgence of infectious diseases." World Watch July 1995. Online. ProQuest Direct. (6 April 1999).Rollin, Pierre. "On the path of a pathogen." Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy Winter 1998. Online. ProQuest Direct. (25 Mar. 1999).Wills, Christopher. Yellow Fever - Black Goddess: The Coevolution of People and Plagues. Reading: Addison - Wesley Publishing Co. Inc, 1996.