Common Diseases in the Marshall IslandsThe Marshall Islands are a string of islands located about midway between Hawaii and Australia. They gained their complete independence from the U.S. in 1986. Common diseases in the Marshall Islands are quite similar to those in the United States.

 

Communicable Diseases

However, to avoid certain diseases, the Centers for Disease Control recommend the following vaccinations for those traveling to the area.

Zika is a risk, as well as typhoid and Hepatitis A. Visitors need to be vigilant against mosquito bites, and avoid eating food from street vendors. Zika can also spread through sexual intercourse, so condoms are recommended. Typhoid can spread through contaminated food or water.

Since there is no vaccine for Zika, travelers should take special care. They should pack mosquito repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, stay in air-conditioned areas, make sure there are window screens, use permathin to treat tents and other materials (shoes, socks, shirts, etc.) and sleep under a mosquito net.

Persons infected with Zika frequently don’t feel sick. It is important to prevent mosquito bites three weeks after returning. This is because if a traveler has the virus, a mosquito can bite her and potentially spread the disease to other people.

Persons with Zika should not take aspirin-based products or ibuprofen. Rest and drink liquids, and see your doctor.

 

Non-Communicable Diseases

In terms of other common diseases in the Marshall Islands, cardiovascular issues lead the way. Second are diabetes, urogenital, blood and endocrine diseases, with chronic respiratory problems third.

Life expectancy in the Marshall Islands hovers around 65 years. According to a 2013 report, the deadliest diseases in the nation were diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Because of climate change, the Marshall Islands are slowly disappearing. Many islanders have relocated to various regions of the United States. However, despite finding employment more easily in the U.S., the majority find the American health care system in the hard to navigate.

In the Marshall Islands, consultations are $5 per visit. Marshall Islanders living on the mainland tend to send family members who need care to Oregon or California for more generous benefits that are not available in Arkansas, where many of them live.

One of the common diseases in the Marshall Islands is cancer. Another is thyroid disorders. Diabetes is very high among Marshall Islanders and those living in the United States. A combination of nuclear testing and the U.S. Military presence, combined with needed relocation due to unlivable conditions on the island have contributed to the diabetes/cancer/thyroid problems.

Their diet may also be a cause for many of these problems. Marshall Islanders traditionally had a diet of fresh fish, breadfruit and coconut. Now, it’s processed foods and white rice. However, education and attempts to improve quality of life in the Marshall Islands may improve the nation’s citizens’ health, as well.

Gloria Diaz

Photo: Flickr