Every now and then we hear about outbreaks and pandemics claiming millions of lives every year. Swine Flu, Diphtheria, Nipah infection, Zika Virus are to name a few. Here is a list of 17 diseases that you must be aware of in 2018.
- #Influenza- It is imperative that we begin with talking about influenza- the first aggressive pandemic outbreak of which took place a 100 years ago. Spanish flu outbreak was a virulent form of influenza that had gripped the entire world infecting close to 500 million people and taking lives of 10 million which was one-third of the population at that time. Although the Spanish flu outbreak is a part of history books now, the virus that had caused the pandemic manages to take the lives of several thousand people every year.
Colloquially called as flu, it is an airborne disease that spreads when tiny droplets from the infected person are released by coughing or sneezing. Unlike in the pandemic outbreak of 1918 which affected men aged 20-40 years the most, children and elderly are the most susceptible. Its form can be mild to severe and can also lead to death. A study in The Lancet stated that the countries and regions that can least afford to prepare for a pandemic will be affected the most. Flu shots are available and it advised to take them before the flu season heralds.
- #Zika Outbreak- Zika virus is transmitted by the bite of virus carrying female Aedes Aegypti. This mosquito borne flavivirus was first identified in Uganda in 1947 in monkeys which later on, with mutations, started infecting humans. Symptoms include mild fever, rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise accompanied by headache. When pregnant women become infected with Zika Virus, it can cause the infant to be born with microcephaly- underdeveloped brain with abnormally small head.
The ongoing outbreak in Rajasthan, India has already affected a large chunk of people and its spread is on the rise.
- #Mental Health- Mental health is a hot topic these days. With many celebrities and high profile people talking about it, the stigma attached to this health problem has diluted to a great extent. People are now opening up about their mental health issues.
Mental health is about one’s state of emotional, psychological and social well being. The way people act, feel and think is determined by their mental health.To deal with mental health issues it is important that we dissociate it with mental illnesses. If someone is physically unwell, we cannot say that they are suffering from some illness. Similarly a person dealing with mental health issues cannot be said to be suffering with mental illness but is rather coping up with a minor upheaval in their mental health department which when diagnosed can be restored.
- #Obesity- Emerging as a global issue, obesity these days is not a first world health issue anymore. Accumulation of abnormal or excessive fat that poses a risk to health gives rise to obesity. When the BMI (Body Mass Index) of a person exceeds 30, they are categorised as obese. Due to sedentary lifestyle, the prevalence of obesity has nearly tripled between 1975 to 2016. It now causes more number of deaths that underweight. Diabetes, ischaemic heart diseases and a various forms of cancer are attributed to obesity.
- #Malnutrition– The imbalance in a person’s intake of nutrients/energy leads to malnutrition. It results in:-
- Undernutrition- It results into wasting (low weight-for-height), stunting (low height-for-age) and underweight (low weight-for-age);
- Micronutrient related malnutrition- It includes micronutrient deficiencies or micronutrient surplus
- #Yellow Fever- Another viral threat which can prove fatal within 7- 10 days of contracting the virus is yellow fever. Prevalent in tropical countries, the disease has claimed millions of lives world over. It is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by virus carrying mosquitoes. The infected person shows symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle pain, jaundice, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. To contain the number of people from contracting yellow fever, a potent vaccine is available with the promise of sustaining immunity and providing life-long protection against the disease.
- #Conflicts- The unrest in the world has given rise to ever spiralling conflicts making health a major cause of concern. Millions of people suffer in lands ravaged with war. Non communicable diseases are more prevalent in conflict affected population. Irregular food supply, insufficient nutrients in the little food available and contaminated food and water add to the woes of people stuck in conflict zones. Various agencies, governmental and non-governmental, are involved uplifting people out of these situations with the maximum efforts that they can make.
- #HIV/AIDS Pandemic- Having claimed more than 35 million lives, HIV/AIDS still remains the most feared life threatening disease. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) interferes with the body’s ability to fight infections rendering it vulnerable to a variety of diseases. Initially, the infected individual may experience no symptoms or influenza like symptoms such as fever, headache or sore throat. Gradually,, the infection weaken the immune system if the body and other signs develop such as swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, diarrhea etc. There is no cure available as of now but there is antiretroviral drugs available that can control the virus and help live productive lives despite of being affected.
- #Malaria- One of the most dreaded amongst vector borne diseases is malaria. Caused by Plasmodium parasites, the strain is carried by female Anopheles mosquitoes called “malaria vector”. According to WHO, close to 216 million cases in 91 countries were recorded in 2016.
Initial symptoms include fever and chills. These symptoms may not be identified as malaria at first. Artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) is used to treat malaria. This disease is widespread but is preventable and curable.
- #Cardiovascular diseases- Coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease and other conditions are dysfunctions of heart and blood vessels which are called cardiovascular diseases. On average, over 17 million people die each year due to some or the other form of CVDs; 31% of the total number of deaths worldwide. Engaging in unhealthy lifestyle- tobacco intake, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity are the foremost reasons of developing cardiovascular diseases.
- #Chronic respiratory diseases- The air is polluted. The environment is degrading. PM 2.5 is on the rise. What is all this giving us? Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, occupational lung diseases and pulmonary hypertension are the cumulative effect of these problems and these diseases are emerging as major health issues in 2018. According to WHO estimates, 235 million people suffer from Asthma worldwide. Being one of the most widespread among chronic respiratory diseases, it is prevalent most among children.
- #Cancer- Cells are the building unit of our body. When these cells go rogue, divide uncontrollably resulting into formation of lumps and tumors, they become cancerous. If the tumor is treated in early stages, it doesn’t become cancerous but if it starts spreading throughout the body and reaches the metasising stage, it’s difficult to reverse and treat this situation.
Over two hundred types of cancers are known today. It is the second leading cause of death globally with one out of six deaths caused due to cancer. Physical, chemical and biological carcinogens are responsible for cancer. Unhealthy eating habits, urban air pollution, indoor smoke, ultraviolet radiation and lack of physical activity are the leading causes of cancer. Early diagnosis can lead to greater probability of surviving and lesser expensive treatment options.
- #Natural Disasters- A catastrophic act of nature that leads to disruption and loss of life with after effects have wide repercussions. The risk of outbreaks is high in the chaos that follows a natural disaster. Safe drinking water is the most difficult to access, and so is food. Communicable diseases spread like wildfire in such scenarios. The large number of dead bodies heighten the risk of disease outbreak such as of cholera or hemorrhagic fever. In 2004, Bangladesh dealt with diarrheal disease outbreak after flooding in which more than 17000 people got affected. Pakistan too witnessed a measles outbreak in the aftermath of 2005 South-Asia earthquake.
- #Epilepsy– Neurological diseases that can affect people of all ages is epilepsy. A chronic disease resulting from infection in the brain due to meningitis, encephalitis, neurocysticercosis, or due to head injury is a dreaded one. An estimated number of 50 million people suffer from epilepsy worldwide with 2.4 million people being diagnosed with the disease each year. Although the disease crosses boundaries and economic barriers, it is more prevalent in low and middle income countries. This could be due to the increased risk of endemic conditions such as malaria or neurocysticercosis. Other factors contributing to its prevalence are higher cases of road related head injuries, birth related injuries, stroke restricting the amount of oxygen reaching the brain etc.
- #Diphtheria- An infectious disease caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheria, Diphtheria infects the throat and upper airways. As the infection progresses, it produces a toxin that affects other organs as well. This toxin, in severe cases, may cause myocarditis or peripheral neuropathy making the situation complex for the patient. It also results into building up of a membrane of dead tissues over the throat and tonsils that makes breathing and swallowing difficult. Since it is a communicable disease, its outbreak can affect a large number of people rapidly.
A vaccine is available that has help curb the spread and recurrent outbreaks of the disease dramatically. A recent outbreak in Delhi has already started claiming lives of 26 kids till now. The resurgence shows that the vaccine has not been administered properly and measures need to be taken for that.
- #Meningitis- When the three tough layers of protective tissues (called meninges) covering the brain become inflamed, it results into meningitis. It’s caused due to bacterial infection; Neisseria meningitidis has the potential to cause large epidemics. When contracted, the infected person experiences various symptoms such as stiff neck, high fever, confused state of mind, headache, vomiting and sensitivity to light. If left untreated, it can result into permanent brain damage, hearing loss and learning disability.