Deaths from infectious diseases, formerly on the decline, have recently taken an alarming upward turn in this country.

According to federal researchers, such deaths rose by 58% from 1980 to 1992, pushing this category of illness up behind heart disease and cancer in the No. 3 spot of killer diseases.

While the AIDS epidemic accounts for most of the rise, experts say there has been an unusual increase in mysterious respiratory infections among the elderly and blood infections among people of all ages. When you eliminate the AIDS the death rate during the same period for all other infectious diseases rose by 22 percent.

The World Health Organization (WHO), back in 1978, looked to the future and issued a report which contended that by the year 2000, sources other than Western, technological medicine would be needed in order for all people to have adequate health care. The organization subsequently adopted the report that recommended the use of traditional forms of healing and medicine, such as the use of herbs, to meet the demands of an exploding global population.

As we approach the year 2000, the wisdom -- and the urgency -- of this advice is obvious in the light of the serious side-effects and shortcoming of pharmaceutical drugs.

With the emergence, for instance, of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains, natural products such as olive leaf extract take on greater importance. Even if new antibiotics are developed, new infectious bacteria would emerge that are resistant to new drugs. In the case of herbal medicinals, their complex chemistry may often render them potentially more effective against a wide variety of microorganisms for which pharmaceutical drugs prove to be ineffective.

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