PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 24: A man uses heroin under a bridge where he lives with other addicts in the Kensington section of Philadelphia which has become a hub for heroin use on January 24, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Over 900 people died in 2016 in Philadelphia from opioid overdoses, a 30 percent increase from 2015. As the epidemic shows no signs of weakening, the number of fatalities this year is expected to surpass last year's numbers. Heroin use has doubled across the country since 2010, according to the DEA, part of an epidemic. Officials from Philadelphia recently announced that they want to become the first U.S. city to allow supervised drug injection sites as a way to combat the opioid epidemic. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

In a twist completely apropos for 2018, Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, has received a patent for a medication designed to treat opioid addiction. Purdue Pharma is largely considered to be responsible for the current opioid epidemic.

The patent is not for an entirely new medication; rather, it is for a new and fast-acting form of an existing medication: buprenorphine.

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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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MOSCOW, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 12, 2017: A man is being examined to get a flu vaccine at a mobile centre for flu vaccination by Belorusskaya Station of the Moscow Metro. Mobile flu vaccination centres are to be open daily for two months; all Moscow residents can get flu vaccination for free. Vladimir Gerdo/TASS (Photo by Vladimir GerdoTASS via Getty Images)

Work hard, play hard. This is the typical American mindset: prioritizing work over all other aspects of life. In the U.S., 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females work more than 40 hours per week. For many Americans, this workload is often necessary, as the average cost of living and the affordability of healthcare remains out of reach for many people. The overworked behavior pattern can be disastrous when it contributes to the spread of communicable diseases.

America isn't at her healthiest on a number of fronts.

America is currently in the midst of many epidemics: a mass shooting epidemic, an opioid epidemic and a flu epidemic. All three pose significant risks. 2018 has been a particularly bad year for the flu. In fact, it has been so bad that it is nearly record-breaking in terms of hospital visits. In the first three weeks in January, 24 children have died as a result of the flu, with a total of 37 fatalities since the beginning of the season. The season’s flu is particularly bad, for a plethora of reasons. According to USA Today, “Both influenza A and B strains are circulating at the same time, when one usually dominates early in the season with the other coming on late. Also, flu vaccines are less effective than expected. And one strain of the flu, H3N2, is particularly virulent, making people sicker and sometimes causing an intense reaction from the body's immune system, during which the lungs can become inflamed and airways can be blocked by mucus and more.”

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You may think of scarlet fever as one of those Victorian illnesses, now thankfully eradicated with modern medicine, which afflicted the consumption-weakened people of the era. In fact, scarlet fever is the result of a common bacterial infection gone untreated. The culprit is Group A streptococcus, which typically resides on our faces and in our throats, and is responsible for scarlet fever, strep throat, and impetigo.

While the infection has been controlled through better hygiene practices and antibiotics, reducing its incidences, it’s been making a dramatic comeback in the past couple years, leaving scientists scrambling to understand why.

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