During the Cold War (1945-1991), issues of public health (with the exception of biological weaponry) were typically consigned to the realm of "low politics." With the end of US-Soviet rivalry in the early 1990s, environmental change, terrorism, migration, and public health began to ascend on the international agenda. Public health victories against microbes reached a zenith in the mid 1970s with the development of powerful anti-microbial drugs. However, the pace and intensity of pathogen emergence has increased since that time with the proliferation of novel agents of contagion. In the late 1990s, the recognition that the HIV/AIDS pandemic represented a significant threat to the economy, the governance, and perhaps the security of developing countries spurred the academic and policy communities into action against this emerging foe. In recent years, the BSE epizootic, the SARS contagion of 2003, and our increasing understanding of the influenza pandemic of 1918-19 have generated great interest in the political and economic impact of contagion. Such outcomes include a capacity to generate socio-political acrimony, a capacity to disrupt global markets and trade, and a capacity to disrupt relations within and between sovereign states.
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