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Experts: Other illnesses lurk, but health system better prepared

Updated: May 14, 2014 6:46AM

Is there a so-called “modern-day polio” waiting to happen?

Yes and no.

Experts who specialize in infectious diseases note that there constantly are outbreaks of diseases that are similar to polio, in that they are especially virulent, don’t have a cure right away and can be devastating to their victims. Consider the H1N1 flu virus that showed up for the first time in 2009.

Such viruses, and to a lesser extent bacterial infections, are constantly mutating.

And when HIV first appeared in a handful of people in 1981, it spread quickly and continues to kill people worldwide.

“There’s always something that we have to worry about if the virus mutates,” said Dr. Gail Reid, an attending physician of infectious diseases at Loyola Medicine.

The big difference between now and when polio first terrified the country in the 1950s is that the United States and other parts of the world now have robust public health systems that can quickly identify a disease, get to the source of it and slow or stop it from spreading, Reid and others noted.

Monifa Thomas

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