Emerging and zoonotic infections in women

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Emerging infections, many of them zoonotic, are caused by a wide variety of pathogens with global distribution. Their impact on women is similarly diverse. Pathogens that were previously rare are emerging in recent years to cause disease in new populations, and global travel facilitates their rapid spread across continents. Finally, human encroachment on previously remote areas has brought people into contact with zoonotic diseases and vectors never before characterized. Although systematic study of rare outbreaks can be challenging, our knowledge of emerging pathogens and their differential effects on women, including those who are pregnant, has started to accumulate. We discuss the effects on women of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, West Nile virus, SARS coronavirus, avian influenza A (H5N1), virus, and the viral hemorrhagic fevers. We also explore the spirochetal illnesses and Chagas disease as they pertain to the pregnant patient. Finally, we review the potential impact of candidate bioterror agents on the female population, and address related issues of prophylaxis and therapy.

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