Tres amenazas para la salud mundial

SAN FRANCISCO – El dramático brote de ébola en África occidental ha puesto de manifiesto la necesidad de fortalecer los sistemas de salud a nivel nacional y mundial. Sin embargo, aunque el brote atrajo la atención de la comunidad internacional hacia las deficiencias del sistema, el objetivo debe ser la erradicación de las epidemias perdurables que de manera silenciosa causan sufrimiento y muertes en todo el mundo.

Sin duda alguna, el virus del ébola ha provocado una tremenda desolación, pero no es la primera ni la más devastadora pandemia a que el mundo se ha enfrentado. De hecho, la viruela es la enfermedad más mortífera conocida por la humanidad: hasta que Edward Jenner desarrolló la vacuna en 1796, fue la principal causa de muerte en Europa, y hasta su erradicación en 1980, se calcula que había acabado con la vida de entre 300 y 500 millones de personas.

En el siglo XIV, la peste bubónica causó la muerte de entre 75 y 100 millones de personas, más de la mitad de la población europea. Durante la pandemia de gripe en 1918, murieron casi 75 millones de personas (entre el tres y el cinco por ciento de la población mundial), es decir, más de dos veces el número de personas fallecidas en la Primera Guerra Mundial.

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