The 2015 Ebola epidemic did not signal the end of Senegal’s health issues. Just like other developing countries, Senegal also has problems with the spread of common diseases.
The spread of some of these diseases correlates with poor sanitation systems and infrastructure, but also concerns unique to West Africa. Here are the seven most common diseases in Senegal.
- Bacterial and protozoal diarrhea
Also known as traveler’s diarrhea or TD, this disease can affect anyone in Senegal. Pathogens transmitted through poor sanitation systems, food and water cause this disease. As a result the disease is prevalent in Senegal, where 52 percent of the population does not have access to improved sanitation facilities.
However, it can also occur anytime someone does not handle food properly. The symptoms of this disease include vomiting, bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain and fever. TD can be treated with antibiotics.
- Hepatitis A
A virus of the liver, hepatitis A afflicts many countries around the world. People typically spread the disease by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the feces of an infected person or being in contact with an infected person. Because this virus also occurs in areas where sanitation issues exist, Senegal has high risk for the disease.
Symptoms include nausea, abdominal pain, fever and joint pain. Although the disease does not typically cause death, acute liver failure can occur, with risks increasing with age. Hepatitis A does not currently have a specific treatment, but can be prevented with improved sanitation.
- Typhoid fever
Typhoid fever is a common disease throughout the world, especially in the developing world. Typhoid persists in a bacterium which can be transmitted through contaminated food or water in food preparation. Once again, being that Senegal has water contamination issues, this virus is likely to affect Senegal’s population.
The symptoms of this disease include high, sustained fevers, stomach pains and a rash with rose-colored spots. Because typhoid commonly spreads through food, it is mainly prevented by handling food properly and hygienically. Typhoid can be treated with antibiotics.
Malaria, another one of the most common diseases in Senegal, plagues many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This disease has a 9 percent mortality rate overall, taking top priority among health officials. Female Anopheles mosquitoes cause the malaria illness, especially after a large amount of rain.
Symptoms include fever, aches, chills and sweats. The most common form of prevention tackles the root of the disease: mosquitoes. Mosquito nets help stymie mosquito bites and provide a temporary source of protection from a problem that has yet to find a solution. PATH, a health organization in Senegal, helps vaccinate young children against the disease.
Comparable to other common diseases in Senegal, schistosomiasis affects primarily tropical areas of the country. Parasites that live in the snails found in contaminated fresh water can transmit the disease. Because of the conditions of its inception, the disease affects nearly two million people in Senegal.
Symptoms include itchy skin, fever, chills and cough. Prevention includes proper water treatment and not swimming in freshwater areas. Schistosomiasis can be treated with medication.
- Meningococcal meningitis
With the number of suspected cases dropping every year as of 2014, the diseases seems to be losing hold in Senegal; however, it remains problematic. Meningitis commonly occurs in large urban centers where close contact in crowded living conditions helps transmit the bacteria person-to-person by respiratory droplets, because of its highly infectious nature.
Forty-seven percent of Senegal’s population lives in urban areas, which increases the risk for spreading the disease. Symptoms include stiff neck, high fever, headaches and vomiting. Primary prevention includes avoiding people with the disease and getting vaccinated. The disease can be treated with antibiotics.
- Yellow Fever
Primarily affecting those who work in heavily forested areas in Senegal, yellow fever is a viral infection spread from monkeys and other humans by mosquitoes. The infection is most common in areas of sub-Saharan Africa and South America. In mild cases, yellow fever can cause fever, headache, nausea and vomiting. But about 15 percent of yellow fever cases can become more serious leading to heart, liver and kidney problems. No specific treatments exist for this disease, however, medication can be helpful for its symptoms.
Likely the most endemic disease in Africa, HIV/AIDS affects high-risk groups in Senegal, particularly sex workers. This autoimmune disease has no cure, yet treatment does exist and lengthens the lifespan of many people with the disease.
While the prevalence among adults in Senegal remains relatively low at just 0.4 percent, the country is still involved in programs that help prevent transmission in the country, including a governmental collaboration – the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR). PATH also provides education, prevention, and treatment programs for female sex workers in Senegal.
These common diseases in Senegal come about primarily due to a lack of basic infrastructure to ensure hygienic and safe communities. With the right support and government priorities, these debilitating diseases can be reduced or eliminated and the people of Senegal can pursue prosperity.
– Selasi Amoani