Common Diseases in CroatiaSince declaring its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Croatia’s emerging economy has propelled the country to the rank of international tourist hotspot. The rustic beauty of its coastal towns, the glittering ocean waters, and historical cities make it a natural contender when choosing desirable getaway settings.

With its undeniable destination appeal bolstering revenue, Croatia’s growing prosperity has paved the way to an improved and functional universal healthcare system that has dramatically reduced the mortality from communicable diseases. Nevertheless, as a transitioning nation, there are still struggles to overcome and common diseases in Croatia that must be addressed. Here are a few of the most common diseases in Croatia.

  1. Coronary Heart Disease
    Like developed nations, one of the most common diseases in Croatia and most prevalent causes of premature death is coronary heart disease. According to the World Health Organization, it was estimated that heart disease accounted for 48 percent of deaths in 2014, compared to 31 percent for the United States in the same year. In Croatia, the leading risk factors include smoking, obesity, hypertension and diabetes. The good news, however, is that in 2015 Croatia saw a 5.2 percent decrease in the number of premature deaths caused by heart disease from 2005.Despite these statistics, Croatia is still considered to be among the highest for cardiovascular risk compared to other European countries. To strengthen preventative measures, the Croatian Heart Foundation has spearheaded a national e-campaign called “Heart Keepers” that seeks to educate medical professionals and patients alike on preventative care concerning the disease. It contains online courses for physicians as well as a mobile app to connect patients with healthcare providers. The campaign is the first of its kind in Croatia and was set to be implemented during the entirety of 2016.
  2. Lung Cancer
    Lung cancer ranks third in leading cause of death and common diseases in Croatia, right behind heart disease and stroke. Smoking is the leading cause, with nearly 30 percent of the adult population being smokers.Other reasons for such a high mortality rate could be a lack of resources, education and proper preventative care and treatment plans. While the healthcare system in Croatia is fairly developed compared to other transitional countries, it still lacks a focused strategy for reducing the risk of lung cancer in its population.

    This approach might include a campaign to better control risky behaviors like tobacco and alcohol use, or to decrease the exposure to occupational hazards and air pollution.

  3. Tick-Borne Encephalitis
    Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is a viral infectious disease affecting the central nervous system. It is contracted most often through the bite of an infected tick belonging to the Ixodidae family, although it may be transmitted by the consumption of raw dairy products as well. Thousands of people are infected every year in high-risk regions spanning across Europe and Asia.Croatia is an endemic region for this disease and it is particularly common in forested and rural areas. The number of cases continues to rise as the tick population increases during bi-annual peak seasons (late March to Early June; August to October) due to mounting regional temperatures.

    Two-thirds of patients experience non-specific, wide-ranging symptoms including fever, headaches, nausea, and general malaise. Twenty to 30 percent of patients enter a second phase of the illness after a brief remission period. These patients experience the more extreme symptoms associated with encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) such as a decline in motor abilities, confusion, seizures or paralysis.

    Presently, there is no definite drug therapy for tick-borne encephalitis. Patients experiencing symptoms are hospitalized and treated on a case-to-case basis depending on the severity of the disease. There are, however, vaccines available as a preventive measure.

The good news is that deaths resulting from the common diseases in Croatia have almost been reduced to solely noncommunicable illnesses, with infectious diseases like malaria all but eradicated. In 2014, the total percentage of death from factors like malnutrition, infectious disease and prenatal and maternity complications was a mere 1 percent. In the United States that number was 6 percent in the same year.

This staggering triumph for Croatia demonstrates how far the country has come in eradicating curable diseases. Its greatest challenge now will be developing strategies to tackle such formidable killers as heart disease and cancer, no easy feat when the cures for these illnesses continue to evade the medical institutions in even the wealthiest of industrialized nations.

Mickie Fischer

Photo: Flickr