Will Parkinson’s disease be the next pandemic?

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The number of people with Parkinson’s disease will soon grow to pandemic proportions—and the medical community needs to mobilize to respond to the impending public health threat—experts say.

“Pandemics are usually equated with infectious diseases like Zika, influenza, and HIV,” says Ray Dorsey, a neurologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “But neurological disorders are now the leading cause of disability in the world and the fastest growing is Parkinson’s disease.”

“We feel it is urgent that people with Parkinson’s go to the pharmaceutical industry and policymakers alike, demanding immediate action to fight this enormous threat.”

A commentary by Dorsey and Bastiaan Bloem of Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands, appears in JAMA Neurology and builds on Dorsey’s Global Burden of Disease study which appeared in The Lancet Neurology in September. That tracked the prevalence of neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, stroke, epilepsy, meningitis, encephalitis, multiple sclerosis, and migraine, both globally and by country.

In the new commentary, the authors point out that between 1990 and 2015, the prevalence of Parkinson’s more than doubled and it is estimated that 6.9 million people across the globe have the disease.

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