Bacteria, which a few decades ago seemed easily controllable because of the power of anti- biotics to wipe them out, have, like viruses, emerged in more deadly forms. Previously unknown bacterial diseases such as Legionnaires’ disease and Lyme disease have appeared. More baffling is the fact that some ordinary bacterial infections have turned unexpectedly lethal.


A great cause for concern is the development of resistance to drugs. Resistance can spread among pathogens of the same species and even from one bacterial species to another. The third, kuru, was endemic in certain tribes in Papua New Guinea, where it was recognized and studied in the mid-20th century. The tribal custom was for mourners to eat the internal organs of dead family members; thus kuru would spread within families. The only one of these diseases that could potentially threaten human health in the United States is chronic wasting disease, which affects North American deer, elk and moose.


The CDC warns hunters to consult with their state wildlife agencies to identify areas where CWD occurs. Where it does occur, the CDC recommends that hunters consider having an animal tested before eating its meat and using care in handling carcasses. American public health agencies have devoted significant resources to developing plans and priorities for confronting the threats.