Infectious diseases are caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. When microscopic organisms break through our natural defenses and make their way into our bodies, they can multiply and cause illness. In some cases, only one system or organ is affected. In others, the infection affects the entire body.
Many diverse and complicated factors contribute to the evolution and spread of infectious diseases including: global travel, new urbanism and immigration; health care practices and public health infrastructure; food production and preparation; the use and misuse of antibiotics and microbial adaptation; and, human behaviour. All of these factors make us vulnerable to existing and emerging infections caused by microorganisms sharing diverse and changing environments.
It is imperative that research and development in the area of infectious disease continue. The Canadian Foundation for Infectious Diseases is dedicated to raising funds to aid identification, prevention, control and treatment of infectious diseases.
Once believed to be almost eliminated as a health risk, infectious diseases remain the leading cause of death worldwide. Ranging from childhood ear infections and measles to flesh eating diseases and sexually transmitted illnesses, infectious diseases affect us all. Over 18 million people died from the influenza pandemic of 1918 and more than 20 million people have already died from AIDS.
The World Health Organization reports that at least 30 new diseases have been scientifically recognized around the world in the last 20 years. Diseases such as SARS, Ebola, cryptosporidiosis and HIV are emerging without warning — and some without cures. At the same time, diseases considered to be part of our past such as tuberculosis, cholera, and diphtheria are making a comeback.
Collectively, infectious diseases account for 25% of all annual physician visits. The total cost of treatment and lost productivity associated with infectious diseases in Canada is estimated to exceed $12 billion each year. Antibiotics are the second most frequently prescribed class of drugs — second only to pain relievers.