Sudan is an East African country that has been embroiled in civil wars for several decades, leading to its split with South Sudan in 2011. The long period of instability in the country has contributed to conditions that encourage the spread of communicable diseases, which are some of the most common diseases in Sudan.
Most Common Diseases in Sudan
- Yellow Fever – Yellow fever is a common virus found in tropical areas of South America and Africa. Transmitted to an individual through the bite of an infected mosquito, yellow fever ranks as one of the most common diseases in Sudan. Symptoms include influenza-like symptoms such as a fever, chills, severe headache, back pain, general body aches, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and weakness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Severe cases can lead to internal bleeding and failure of major organs. Sudan is listed as one of the thirty countries in Africa with a high risk of yellow fever.
- Rift Valley Fever – From 2007 to 2010, a major outbreak of Rift Valley fever, a mosquito-borne viral disease, was recorded in Sudan. Standing water from unusual flooding allowed for infected mosquito eggs to lie dormant. Infected mosquitos also feed on livestock, which can pass the disease to humans through infected blood and meat. The Rift Valley fever outbreak devastated Sudanese agricultural communities, leading to an almost 100 percent mortality rate among young animals and high pregnancy failures among child-bearing livestock. According to the CDC, nearly 75,000 people were infected with the disease over the course of three years. Symptoms include fever and liver irregularities, but severe cases can cause hemorrhagic fever, encephalitis or ocular disease.
- Guinea Worm Disease – One of the most geographically specific and common diseases in Sudan is Guinea worm disease. The infection, caused by the parasite Dracunculus medinensis, the Guinea worm, is spread by drinking water containing worm larvae. Guinea worm disease highly affects poor communities in Sudan that have little access to clean drinking water. Once ingested, over the course of a year, larvae grow into full-size adults within a human’s digestive tract. Within 24 to 72 hours after reaching full-size, the infected person develops blisters on their hands or feet, out of which the worm eventually emerges. Based on research by the CDC, there is applicable treatment of Guinea worm disease and no vaccine for prevention.
- Meningococcal Meningitis – Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial disease that causes an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. It is a respiratory disease transmitted from person to person by close and prolonged contact resulting from crowded living conditions. Sudan lies in the region of sub-Saharan Africa referred to as the “Meningitis Belt,” where the highest rate of meningococcal meningitis occurs throughout the continent. Symptoms can include a stiff neck, high fever, headaches and vomiting. The CIA World Factbook listed Sudan as a country at very high risk of infection.
- Malaria – Transmitted to humans through the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito, malaria ranks as one of the most common diseases in Sudan. With cases recorded in all regions of Sudan, the risk of contracting the disease is extremely high. According to the CDC, symptoms of malaria include fever, chills and flu-like illness. Severe cases can end in death. In 2015, a confirmed 586,827 cases of the disease were treated. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, including unreported cases, there were 1,400,000 total. Estimated deaths total around 3,500.
- HIV/AIDS – Based on research conducted by the CDC, human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) affect an estimated 35 million people worldwide, with more than two-thirds of those living in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2015, 25 percent of adults in Sudan were living with HIV/AIDS, according to the CIA World Factbook. HIV/AIDS is most often spread through unprotected intercourse but can be contracted by blood-to-blood contact with an infected person. Symptoms are often flu-like and can progress to severe cases that can be fatal. HIV/AIDS ranks as an extremely common disease in Sudan today.
Despite the country’s high risk of contracting an infectious disease, work is being done to combat issues related to health and sanitation. The World Health Organization, in coordination with the Sudanese Ministry of Health, is taking action, such as expanding cholera emergency responses to lower future risk and training health workers in disease detection.
– Riley Bunch