Common Diseases in PanamaDiseases in countries where there are a lot of the population living below the line of poverty are, unfortunately, more prevalent than those is developed countries. Combine a low average income with a tropical atmosphere, and infectious disease becomes more prevalent, and more dangerous. These factors contribute to the most common diseases in Panama.

Panama’s poverty levels are high. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America, nearly 29 percent of the population lives in poverty, and about 12 percent are extremely poor. In such conditions, many cannot afford to protect themselves from commonly cured diseases.

Common diseases in Panama, such as cholera and Hepatitis A, are food-borne illnesses. These can be passed through the handling of food through fecal matter. Poor sanitation from food handlers leads to the passing of the infection to the recipient. Cholera can be cured with antibiotics, and the World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend a vaccine. Hepatitis A, however, has no cure, but fortunately, there is a vaccine.

A very common disease in Panama, also passed through contaminated water, is giardiasis. This illness is an infection in the intestine, which originates from a parasite. Giardiasis infects 25 percent of food handlers in Panama City.

As with many countries in Latin America, common diseases in Panama include a prevalence of vector-borne illness. Malaria, Dengue fever and Yellow fever are all diseases caused by environmental forces. Malaria is commonly found in tropical areas. This illness is transferred by the bite of a mosquito, and can lead to organ failure, among many other complications.

Another common disease in Panama is Leishmaniasis. This disease occurs in less-populated areas, usually in areas where there are forests. This disease has three different types: cutaneous, mucocutaneous and visceral. The first two types are defined by their ulcer type, the third is the most severe form. Visceral leishmaniasis causes high fever, weight loss, spleen and liver swelling and skin darkening. Untreated visceral leishmaniasis patients have about an 85 percent mortality rate.

Although, many of these diseases come from the natural environment of the country, resources and aid given to a country with a high infection rate and high poverty rate help tremendously. The U.S. does not give extensive financial aid to Panama, however, has provided assistance in regards to developmental assistance and health, but mostly only to assist with HIV/AIDS.

Nate Harris

Photo: Flickr