We’ve all lost sleep over pathogens during the past few years. COVID-19 precipitated enough worry to increase the prevalence of anxiety by 25%, according to global data from the World Health Organization.
Although monkeypox caused less worry than COVID-19 in some populations, in others it was associated with mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.
When you layer monkeypox on top of COVID-19, you’ve got a bigger public health emergency, which our U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reminds us can bring about lots of stress symptoms like drinking, smoking, taking drugs, and generally feeling helpless.
Suffice it to say that pathogens have been in the forefront of our minds of late.The recent blast in the news about over the counter eyedrops harboring a drug-resistant bacteria doesn’t help the mood.
The recalled drops include multiple brands, which apparently were not protected with sufficient preservatives or suitable sealing. Infection with the bacteria — Pseudomonas aeruginosa — can have consequences as dire as death and blindness. Or you might just need to have your eyeball surgically removed. Seriously? Can we end this story now?
Well, not quite yet, because other pathogens don’t get as much press, but are no less worthy of our attention. For example, data from the past decade shows a deadly fungus spreading in health care settings in the U.S. Infections with Candida auris have doubled. Some people remain carriers, but for others the yeast spreads through the bloodstream and becomes life-threatening. The antifungal drugs are not working well on new, resistant infections. Says epidemiologist Meghan Lyman, “We’re obviously very concerned.”
And healthcare settings are not the only conduits for spread of pathogens. Have you protected yourself from babesiosis? (nope, not an ailment limited to “babes”). It’s caused by a diminutive parasite — Babesia microti — that’s spread by ticks. Healthy people may be asymptomatic, but others suffer a flu-like infection can get life-threatening. So, despite its cute name, there’s nothing cute about babesiosis.
CDC parasitologists advise that, "Persons spending time outdoors in states with endemic babesiosis should practice tick bite prevention, including wearing long pants, avoiding underbrush and long grass, and using tick repellents."
Infections in general are expected to continue to rise with global warming. A recent study shows that infections from an ocean bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus (not such a cute name) are becoming more common and geographically widespread. When you swim on the East Coast, for example, the bacteria can enter an open wound and cause an infection with a 1 in 5 chance of death. What?! It’s called “flesh-eating” because of the way it corrodes human flesh. After Hurricane Ian, Florida saw a spike in flesh-eating bacteria cases nourished by the sewage inflows to the sea.
If you’re not concerned yet about pathogens, the CDC’s Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) detailing all the latest healthcare challenges is HERE, for some uplifting reading.