Harvard Health Letter

Are we prepared for epidemics?

Mosquitoes can transmit many viruses, such as, Zika, West Nile, dengue, and yellow fever.
Image: Thinkstock

Ask the Doctor

Q. Why is it that we suddenly have epidemics of things like Zika virus that we've never heard about, and that we have no treatments or vaccines for? It feels like we should be better prepared than we apparently are. This worries me more than terrorism.

A. Epidemics should worry all of us more than terrorism. In the 20 years from 1995 through 2014, nearly 200 times as many U.S. citizens died from just one type of epidemic—influenza—as died anywhere on earth in an act of terrorism. That includes those killed in the tragedy of 9/11.

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