Healthier People: 20 Years of Public Health Achievements

Ingrid G. Hein

November 20, 2015

In This Article

Infectious and Vaccine-Preventable Disease

"We now have 17 diseases that are routinely prevented through immunization, saving $14 billion a year in direct costs," says Blumenthal.

New vaccines since 2001 include rotavirus, quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate, herpes zoster, pneumococcal conjugate, and HPV vaccines, as well as the tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis vaccine for adults and adolescents.[22]

Following the introduction of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, an estimated 211,000 serious pneumococcal infections and 13,000 deaths were prevented during 2000-2008 in the United States.[32] Routine rotavirus vaccination, implemented in 2006, now prevents an estimated 40,000-60,000 hospitalizations a year.[33]

Dr William G. Powderly, director of the Institute for Public Health and past chair of the HIV Medicine Association, says that one of the great stories of infectious disease in the past 20 years is hepatitis C, a virus discovered in 1989. "Thanks to the power of molecular biology and drug development, hepatitis C viral infection can be completely cured in 12 weeks. If that's not a remarkable story, I don't know what is."

Powderly calls HIV a landmark disease of the past 2 decades. "We went from a fatal disease to something chronic and manageable," he said. "Life expectancy is almost normal—but nobody is cured. I remain optimistic that we will have a vaccine for HIV," he says, whether fully or partially effective; at least it will be a preventive vaccine.

Dr Powderly says that the HIV era has been very important in reminding us of the significance of public health and that traditional approaches to protection against infectious disease are still valid. "Identification, understanding the epidemiology, rendering those with HIV noninfectious, and developing prevention strategies around the spread of HIV are extremely important."

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