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The decade of the 1990s has been marked by an unprecedented array of highly visible infectious diseases. These have included the appearance of cholera in Latin America for the first time this century, outbreaks of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, upsurges of diphtheria in the former Soviet Union, the discovery of hantavirus-associated disease in the southwestern United States, plague in India, the reawakening of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in Africa, and now the possible link between bovine spongiform encephalopathy and a variant of human Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in Great Britain. This seemingly endless string of episodes has served as a reminder that infectious diseases are far from vanquished, and that today this subject is in as great a state of dynamic flux as at any time in its history. Along with these episodes has come a veritable explosion of interest in the subject of emerging infectious diseases by scientists, the print and visual media, and the public, seeking to explain the underlying reasons for the phenomena in order to predict the future course of events.