The January 2018 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases features high-consequence pathogens. A pathogen is a biological organism that causes disease or illness in its host. But if any pathogen can cause disease, which in itself is a negative consequence, why are only some pathogens considered to be of “high consequence”?
High-consequence pathogens have one or more of the following features:
• potential to cause epidemics or pandemics
• infect/affect many people
• spread rapidly in a short time
• infection results in high cost to society (loss of worker productivity)
• infection results in high cost to the healthcare system
What Are Some Diseases Caused by High-Consequence Pathogens?
High-consequence pathogens include viruses, bacteria, and prions. Here are examples of diseases caused by high-consequence pathogens.
Ebola virus disease
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
Marburg hemorrhagic fever
Rift Valley fever
Actinomycoses & nocardiosis
Leprosy (Hansen disease)
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease)
Chronic wasting disease
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (classic and variant)
What Is Being Done with Regard to High-Consequence Pathogens?
Scientists are working to protect the public from these pathogens by
• investigating and monitoring outbreaks
• identifying new pathogens and diseases
• seeking better ways to prevent (e.g., vaccines, behavior), diagnose (e.g., laboratory tests), and treat (e.g., medications) those diseases
• developing emergency response plans (for potential or actual outbreaks)
EID Articles about High-Consequence Pathogens
Learn more about high-consequence pathogens from these articles from the January issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases. For a quick overview, read the abstracts for the articles. Use the journal’s Advanced Article Search to find more articles.
• Expected Duration of Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes after Zika Epidemic explores how long pregnant women are at risk after a Zika epidemic.
• Investigation of Canine-Mediated Human Rabies Death, Haiti, 2015 reports the challenges of eliminating human death from rabies in Haiti.
• Postmortem Findings in Patient with Guillain-Barré Syndrome and Zika Virus Infection describes development of Guillan-Barré syndrome in a Zika patient.
• Sensitivity and Specificity of Suspected Case Definition Used during West Africa Ebola Epidemic examines how to define a "suspected" case of Ebola.
• Increased Severity and Spread of Mycobacterium ulcerans, Southeastern Australia describes how Buruli ulcer is spreading in Southeast Asia.
• Leprosy in Nonimmigrant Canadian Man without Travel outside North America, 2014 describes how a man who never left North America acquired leprosy.
• Melioidosis, Singapore, 2003–2014 describes trends in melioidosis cases in Singapore.
1. Belay ED, Monroe SS. Low-Incidence, High-Consequence Pathogens. Emerg Infect Dis. 2014;20(2):319-321. https://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2002.131748
2. CDC Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology Factsheet
- Page created: January 25, 2018
- Page last updated: January 30, 2018
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID)
Office of the Director (OD)