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Vaccines Prevent Disease and PovertyVaccines are known to save lives and protect against diseases, but now can be credited for preventing poverty as well. A study done at Harvard University alongside Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance researched the economic effects of vaccines for 10 different diseases in 41 developing countries. The study concluded that vaccines would help to prevent 24 million people throughout the world’s poorest countries from falling into poverty by the year 2030. The study also estimated that vaccines given between 2016 and 2030 would prevent the deaths of 36 million people.

Vaccines contain the same antigens that are responsible for causing diseases. The antigens in the vaccines are killed or severely weakened and are unable to cause the disease, but are strong enough to allow the body’s immune system to produce the antibodies needed to become immune to the disease. Therefore, the protection comes without the child having to be sick or suffer from a disease. This reduces the cost of healthcare for families and allows them to save and spend more money, boosting the country’s economy.

Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO of Gavi, talked about the effects on a child who receives vaccinations and their school attendance. He stated that a child who is healthy is more likely to attend school and become a productive member of society, and their families will not be obligated to pay the expensive healthcare costs that come with diseases. Healthcare expenses cause about 100 million people to fall into poverty each year, as medical treatment is one of the main reasons families are forced below the poverty line. With the use of vaccines, countries will be better protected from both disease and poverty.

The greatest poverty reducer will be vaccinations, by reducing the number of people who are living in poverty due to hepatitis B. Gavi anticipates this will help 14 million people avoid medical impoverishment. Poverty cases that are due to measles will be reduced by vaccines, which is anticipated to prevent 5 million cases as well as preventing 22 million deaths. Disease and poverty are linked through a cause and effect in that medical costs cause poverty in many developing countries.

The study also showed that the poorest 20 percent of the global population represented more than one-fourth of deaths that can be prevented by vaccinations. Furthermore, the study concluded that introducing vaccines in the poorest countries would have the largest impact on lowering the number of deaths and the number of people falling into poverty due to their medical expenses. Therefore, vaccines prevent both disease and poverty.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

common diseases in CyprusCyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, gained its independence from Great Britain almost sixty years ago. Today, Cyprus is home to just over 1.2 million people, the vast majority of whom are Greek. These people are governed by the Republic of Cyprus, which is a presidential democracy. As is the case across the world, there are a plethora of common diseases in Cyprus that damage the Middle Eastern nation.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) only recommends that most people who are planning to visit Cyprus receive one vaccination: Hepatitis A. The vaccine is both safe and effective in preventing people from contracting the viral liver illness and mild to severe sickness that results. Contaminated food and water can potentially spread the disease, according to the WHO.

Depending on what one is planning to do in Cyprus, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends the vaccination for Hepatitis B. The activities that put one at risk for Hepatitis B in Cyprus include sexual activity, tattoos or piercings or medical procedures. One of the particularly important similarities between Hepatitis A and B is that vaccinations can prevent both.

Rare diseases are not quite as rare in Cyprus is their name suggests. In fact, it is estimated that over 60,000 people suffer from rare diseases. What are rare diseases? According to Cyprus Mail, “Most rare diseases are genetic and include congenital abnormalities…” Part of what makes combating rare diseases such a challenge is that there are many different types of them that require highly-valuable resources to alleviate.

One action being taken to help the many affected by rare diseases in Cyprus is the opening of a new health center in Nicosia, the nation’s capital, which will provide information and support to people with rare diseases. “This is very helpful because we are under one umbrella,” a woman who was present at the opening said to Cyprus Mail. She went on to say that in the past those who suffered from a rare disease often felt isolated and that they had nowhere to turn.

Hepatitis A and B are two common diseases in Cyprus that people need to take precautions against. Additionally, when grouped together, individual rare diseases are a major problem, but it seems as though steps are being taken to improve the situation.

Adam Braunstein

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in SamoaSamoa is a great vacation destination. There are museums, places to go surfing and beaches to relax on. However, the tropical weather and abundance of water gives rise to many infectious diseases. Below is a guide to the most common diseases in Samoa.

Zika Virus
Due to a number of mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus, the virus has become one of the most common diseases in Samoa. Thus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking precautionary measures. The virus is spread via mosquito bites and sexual contact with an infected person. Thus, the CDC advises travelers and locals to avoid bug bites and use condoms whenever possible. This is even more important for pregnant women, as they are at risk of passing the virus onto their offspring.

Also, it is possible to contract the virus and not even know it. It is typical for people to not experience anything beyond a mild sickness (if they get sick at all) or show distinct symptoms. At the time of writing, there are no cures, medication or vaccines for the Zika virus.

Hepatitis A
Spread through contact with the hands of an infected person and contaminated water and food, people are at risk of catching hepatitis A in Samoa. If someone does develop symptoms, they likely won’t appear until the virus has been in their system for a couple of weeks. The symptoms include mild fever, joint pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, abdominal/liver pain or discomfort, jaundice, clay-colored bowel movements and dark urine.

Fortunately, there is a vaccine that people can ask their doctors/nurses for. This, paired with eating foods prepared correctly and safely, drinking clean (preferably carbonated) water, maintaining personal hygiene and avoiding bushmeat, should prevent the contraction hepatitis A.

Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B can be found all over the world, but it is particularly prevalent in Samoa. It is so common that, in 2015, the Samoan Cabinet authorized a doctor to participate in a New Zealand meeting discussing hepatitis B treatment and possible drug donation to Samoans. Hepatitis B can spread via unprotected sex, contact with infected blood, unscreened blood transfusions or during childbirth. Even infected items such as razor blades, needles and unclean medical or dental equipment can spread the virus.

According to IAMAT, a nonprofit focused on giving travelers up-to-date health information, hepatitis B is also asymptomatic for many of those who have it. It typically takes anywhere from one to six months after exposure to experience illness and shares many of its symptoms with hepatitis A. Untreated hepatitis B “can lead to liver failure, liver cancer and even death.”

A series of vaccinations are available for Hep B. IAMAT goes on to recommend other preventative measures such as practicing safe sex; avoiding injuries during physical activities; getting medical and dental care done at a trustworthy institution; not sharing needles or razors and avoid getting any new tattoos or piercings.

Typhoid
Typhoid, like hepatitis A, can spread through contaminated food and water. In addition to common symptoms such as weakness and stomach pains, some can experience constipation and a rash.

A vaccine in the form of a shot or pills is available. The prevention methods are the same as hepatitis A. Additionally, close contact (such as sharing food/utensils/cups/kisses/hugs) with infected individuals should also be avoided.

While the most common diseases in Samoa may not all be life-threatening initially, it is best to err on the side of caution and heed the preventative measures.

Jada Haynes

Photo: Flickr


With an evolving population of 4.3 million people, Croatia is known for its rich historical culture, beautiful landscapes and pleasant climate. As a result, Croatia has become a booming tourist destination.

Although Croatia is widely known for its attractions, many transmittable diseases in Croatia threaten the health of its population and the country’s tourism industry.

Here are just a few of the threatening diseases in Croatia:

Typhoid Fever

Typhoid fever is a systemic infection, usually contracted through contaminated food or water. The symptoms include prolonged fever, nausea, headache, loss of appetite and constipation or diarrhea. It thrives in areas with poor sanitation and lack of clean drinking water. According to a study published in 2014, approximately 21 million cases and 222,000 typhoid-related deaths occur annually worldwide, demonstrating the real threat that this communicable infection poses.

Currently, there are two typhoid vaccines that are recommended for use, including an injectable polysaccharide vaccine (Vi-PS vaccine) for persons of age two years and above. The other vaccine is a live attenuated oral Ty21a vaccine for those over five years of age.

Malaria

Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted through mosquito bites. The symptoms include fever, headache, chills and vomiting, which usually appear within 7 days or more (usually 10-15 days). If not treated quickly, this can progress to severe illness, often leading to death.

Malaria is preventable and curable, easing the burden in many countries around the world. Currently, there are no licensed vaccines against malaria or any other human parasite. However, with insecticide-treated mosquito nets and antimalarial drugs, malaria can be prevented.

Hepatitis B

As a viral infection that attacks the liver, hepatitis B is a virus that is transmitted through contact with blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person. Every year, more than 686 million people die due to the complications of hepatitis B, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.

A vaccine against hepatitis B is available in preventing the infection and the development of the chronic disease and liver cancer complications. However, the treatment does not cure all cases of hepatitis B. By only suppressing the replication of the virus, lifelong treatments are necessary in order to fight against the complications of the virus.

Although the diseases in Croatia are constantly threatening the health of the country’s population and its tourism industry, many are continuing to develop innovative methods to help bring vaccinations and preventable solutions to Croatia, potentially saving millions of lives.

Brandon Johnson

Photo: Flickr

world_hepatitis_day
July 28, 2015 marked the sixth World Hepatitis Day, designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2010. According to the WHO, there are 400 million people with Hepatitis B or C, 240 million and 150 million, respectively. This amounts to 1.5 million deaths per year from viral hepatitis, which translates to 4,000 deaths per day that could be prevented with awareness and understanding regarding prevention.

Despite the disease being the seventh leading cause of death, everything is available to prevent infection and death, according to WHO Global Hepatitis Program team leader Stefan Wiktor. The most common method for treatment are injections. An estimated 16 billion injections are done yearly. Unfortunately, 40 percent of them are unsafe. WHO is promoting the exclusive use of sterile syringes that are specific for hepatitis treatment, to prevent unsafe injections.

While both Hepatitis B and C attack the liver and cause acute or chronic illness, there are different methods to treat each of them. For Hepatitis B, there is a vaccine, lab tests to screen out infection and safe treatment injections. Treatment can control the virus, but doesn’t cure it. All the more reason to know that Hepatitis B is transmitted through bodily fluids, and usually happens from mother to child. It is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa and East Africa. Unsafe injections of Hepatitis B account for 32 percent of infections.

Hepatitis C provides a little bit more hope. Its medications can cure almost everybody, but they cost $84,000 in wealthy nations, for a 12-week treatment. Egypt has been able to negotiate $900 for the medications. WHO believes prices will go down in the future.

To prevent Hepatitis C, it is worth knowing that it is a blood borne virus which is most commonly transmitted with drug use. Unsafe injections account for 40 percent of infections. WHO Service Delivery and Safety Department Director Edward Kelley comments, “preventing unsafe injections is key to curbing this epidemic”.

Despite the expensive medications for Hepatitis C, there has been a breakthrough this year. An inexpensive allergy medication has been discovered to block the virus so it doesn’t infect the liver cells, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The antihistamine, chlorcyclizine, and similar “re-purposed” drugs were tested for their effectiveness against viral and bacterial infections in a high throughput screening method used in the analysis of government-approved compounds.

The only thing left is to determine a therapeutic dose for its use in the treatment of Hepatitis C, potentially giving millions of people who can’t afford the current $84,000 treatment.

– Paula Acevedo

Sources: Science Translation Magazine, Voice of America 1, Voice of America 2, World Hepatitis Day Campaign
Photo: World Hepatitis Day