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The headlines began in 2014: Formerly healthy children contracted what seemed to be a minor upper respiratory infection and were suddenly paralyzed — sometimes one limb, sometimes multiple limbs, sometimes permanently.

Parents and experts wondered if it could be a brand-new virus, West Nile disease, or even a mutated version of polio, which hadn’t been seen in the U.S. since the late 1970s.

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Think twice about hooking up: STD rates are at an all-time high. Worse, the latest STD making the rounds could literally make your genitals rot off. Donovanosis, also known as granuloma inguinale, is a sexually transmitted infection that turns a person’s genitals into flesh-eating ulcers. It can also infect the mouth, nose, and chest.

The disease has typically been reported in warm, humid regions including India, southern Africa, central Australia, and the Caribbean, but cases have also appeared in cooler climates. The CDC records about 100 cases in the U.S. each year. This summer, the U.K. saw a rash of cases as well.

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LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 18: American businessman and philanthropist Bill Gates makes a speech at the Malaria Summit at 8 Northumberland Avenue on April 18, 2018 in London, England. The Malaria Summit is being held today to urge Commonwealth leaders to commit to halve cases of malaria across the Commonwealth within the next five years with a target to 650,000 lives. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

With all the talk of President Trump’s nuclear button, deadly extreme weather and even humanoid robots taking over the world, it’s easy these days to imagine any number of doomsday scenarios that could wipe out the human race.

According to Microsoft-founder-turned-philanthropist Bill Gates, however, the most pressing threat is something much less dramatic but also highly plausible: A global pandemic akin to the 1918 influenza breakout, which could kill more than 30 million people in just six months.

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Andie Vaught, 25, grasps a stress toy in the shape of a truck as she prepares to have her blood drawn by phlebotomist Catina Boyd as part of a clinical trial for a Zika vaccine at the National Institute of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, November 21, 2016. (Allison Shelley/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Each year, the epidemiology community keeps a close eye on the flu, a virus that is famous for mutating and changing in its severity and ability to spread. This year is an especially auspicious year for contemplating influenza: 100 years ago, the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918 killed millions of people around the world. Studying these viruses can alert the medical and scientific communities in time to stop such an outbreak from devastating humanity again.

However, studying viruses can be a tricky business. In 2014, University of Wisconsin flu experts created a “mutant” version of the 1918 flu virus, and discovered that strains of the original 1918 version still exist in the environment. Since even the strictest lab protocols can’t promise that such a virus won’t escape, this development sparked debate which prompted the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to issue a moratorium on continued studies on infectious diseases. Scientists argued that if we don’t study viruses, we won’t understand how to combat them when they inevitably occur in human and agricultural populations.

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Clinicians in an intensive care unit. (Wikimedia Commons)

Does censoring free speech come at the cost of public health?

By now, it is well understood that the Trump administration has curbed seven words from appearing in official documents prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to a report by The Washington Post, the newly-limited words and terms are: diversity, entitlement, evidence-based, fetus, science-based, transgender and vulnerable.

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Shingles disease viral infection concept as a medical illustration with skin blisters hives and sores on a human back torso as a health symbol for a painful rash condition.

Getting shingles is not pleasant.

First, a burning pain breaks out across parts of the body — most often the trunk and waist. Then, the painful areas erupt in fluid-filled blisters, sometimes accompanied by fatigue or fever.

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Co-sleeping, sleep training, breast versus bottle, free-range versus helicopter parenting – these are all hot-button parenting issues. But no parenting issue invokes more division and derision than vaccination.

The difference, pro-vaccinators argue, between the first examples and vaccination is that the decision not to vaccinate impacts more than just one’s immediate family. Unvaccinated children can present a health risk to those too young to be immunized or who are unable to receive vaccines because of allergies or other health issues.

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