In 13 years as an infectious-disease doctor in the suburbs of New York City, Azfar Chak has fought viruses, both routine and rare. But he had never experienced a summer of viruses like this one. No one had, at least not in this part of the world.

Covid, monkeypox, polio Summer of viruses reflects travel, warming trends

A third year of the coronavirus, driven by a more contagious variant. Global outbreaks of monkeypox and a mysterious hepatitis afflicting previously healthy children. Polio virus found in the sewage systems in London and New York. And polio diagnosed in patients in Jerusalem and Rockland County where Chak works, a region of more than 300,000 people just north of New York City. The return of polio, one of the most feared diseases in the early 1950s, was particularly unnerving. In the 800-page medical review Chak read recently to prepare for recertification, he found “almost no mention of polio. Because we were under the impression that it was pretty much eradicated.” That’s how it’s gone in this summer of viruses, as new disease outbreaks became a source of deepening anxiety and even alarm. “Any prior narrative that we have somehow conquered infectious diseases through treatment and preventive measures hasn’t really come to pass,” said Jeremy Greene, who teaches the history of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “The attention to covid-19 as a once-in-a-lifetime historical pandemic is itself already a wishful statement Many within the infectious-disease community have already been expecting some ‘Next’ to emerge.” In many respects, the viral invasion is no accident. A warming climate, vanishing forests and global travel have accelerated the spread of pathogens from animals to people, as well as among people in different parts of the world.

Summer of viruses, The human population has doubled in the past 50 years to almost 8 billion, fueling the expansion of megacities and demand for land on which to build homes and raise crops and animals. The global land transformation has led to the annual loss of almost 25 million acres of forest, eroding a traditional border between the human and animal worlds, according to the United Nations.Closer contact with animals puts us in range of the pathogens they carry, which cause 60 percent of all human diseases. “We live in a world of microbial evolution and the microbes are taking every advantage they can,” said Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. On a deeper level, some experts suggest, we have demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of the positions humans and microbes occupy on the planet. The viruses were here long before we were, and they vastly outnumber us. Lay all viruses end to end, and “they would stretch for 100 million light-years,” according to an editorial in Nature Reviews Microbiology. German virologist Karin Moelling put it this way: “We are the invaders of the viral world, not vice versa.” The summer of 2022 may go down as the moment that humans began to get the picture. Infectious diseases became big news.“It used to be that if one outbreak were reported, out of the hundred or so going on in Africa at any one time, that was quite something. But now, many more get reported,” said Jimmy Whitworth, a doctor specializing in infectious diseases, epidemiology and public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

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