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Diseases in India
India is a sub-continent in Southern Asia that boasts the second largest population in the world following China, with roughly 17 percent of the world’s population. India plays a vital role in multiple international organizations including the U.N., World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While India has sustained large economic growth—up to 10 percent annually—and a GDP amounting to roughly $1.6 billion, not everyone has reaped the benefits of these feats. India ranks as one of the poorest nations in the world with approximately 68.8 percent of its citizens living in poverty—that is over 800 million people. A life of poverty for these citizens hastens the spread of diseases that inevitably lead to chronic impairment or death. These are the top eight diseases in India.

Top 8 Diseases in India

  1. Ischemic Heart Disease – Commonly referred to as coronary artery disease (CAD), this condition is the number one cause of death in India. Independent groups such as the Indian Heart Association work to raise awareness of the issue through cardiac screenings and informational sessions. Indian dietary habits can be poor with many foods involving butter, grease and fatty foods. This is especially true for poorer segments of the population where this type of food is cheaper and easily accessible. From 2007 to 2017, there was an approximate 49.8 percent increase in the number of deaths in India caused by ischemic heart disease.
  2. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – People primarily contract this disease through smoking, second-hand smoking and fume inhalation. Roughly 30 million Indians suffer from a moderate or severe form of COPD. Early detection of COPD can lead to successful treatment and survival of the patient. Factory pollution in India is rampant and the use of cigarettes is all too common, especially among poorer sections of the population. The impoverished have limited access to medical clinics with 56 percent of the population lacking health care, and thus, unable to get adequate treatment for COPD.
  3. Diarrheal Diseases – Diarrheal diseases account for a significant portion of childhood mortality in India. It is the third leading cause of childhood mortality and studies have correlated this to hygiene, malnutrition, improper sanitation and an impoverished upbringing. A lack of affordable care and education for families will lead to further prominence of diarrheal diseases in Indian society. Currently, the U.S. Agency for International Development is working to implement effective and affordable solutions to counteract sanitary related diseases in India.
  4. Lower Respiratory Infections – Respiratory infections such as influenza, pneumonia and bronchitis are all diseases that harm lung function in the body. Indians are extremely susceptible to these due to the high concentration of air pollution throughout the country, especially in poor rural and urban areas. In 2018, 14 out of 15 of the most polluted cities in the world were in India according to the World Health Organization. Further, air pollution also led to roughly 1.24 million deaths in India over the course of 2015.
  5. Tuberculosis – In 2016, there were 2.8 million reported cases of TB and about 450,000 deaths. This disease is rampant among the impoverished in India because there is not a sufficient amount of clinics and professionals to resolve the issue. The vaccine for tuberculosis is not accessible for Indians in the poor parts of the nation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims to eradicate tuberculosis by 2025. Through a $1 million partnership with USAID, India hopes to strengthen the detection and treatment of tuberculosis.
  6. Neonatal Disorders – While incidences of neonatal disorders in India have decreased from 52 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 28 per 1,000 in 2013, this is not an indicator of sustainable progression in India. The truth of the matter is that neonatal decline simply boosted the infant mortality rate because of a brief time-lapse in the survival of the newborn. In India, one can attribute neonatal deaths to asphyxia, pneumonia, sepsis, meningitis, tetanus and an array of other preterm abnormalities. Further, studies show that there is an inverse correlation between socioeconomic status and neonatal deaths. In impoverished rural parts of the country, the neonatal mortality rate is 31 per 1,000 live births whereas it is 15 per 1,000 live births in urban parts of the nation.
  7. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) – Contrary to popular belief, CKD impacts lower-income countries as well as developed ones. In more developed countries, individuals are able to get access to life-saving treatments. Lower-income nations and portions of nations do not share the same luxury. Scientists predict that there will be 7.63 million deaths from CKD in India in 2020; this is up from the 3.78 million CKD deaths in 1990. The poor in India do not have the finances to receive transplants or the means to attend a reputable hospital.
  8. Tumors – Accounting for 9.4 percent of deaths in India, tumors are the product of pathogens and the buildup of harmful germs in the human body. While not extremely common, these tumors are affecting young and middle-age individuals at an alarming rate. Tumors are also root identifiers of cancer. In the last 26 years, the cancer rate in India has doubled and caused significant economic loss, exemplified by a $6.7 billion loss in 2012. Breast cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer and oral cancer are extremely prominent in the nation. The costs of treatment are not attainable for all of the affected and thus cause an increase in mortality. India aims to increase the number of physicians and centers for treatment and research through a $20 million initiative. Nongovernmental organizations are also working to raise awareness and supporting early detection methods across the nation.

Since its independence in 1947, India became one of the strongest nations on the planet. With an unprecedented economic boom, India is an emerging global superpower. Despite India’s successes, it is still lagging behind many western countries in its accessibility to medicine, medical facilities and equal wealth distribution.

The top eight diseases in India are pressing problems the nation can resolve through adequate reform. While the situation may appear hopeless, India is taking strides forward to ensure that each citizen lives a prosperous and meaningful life. Technological advances such as new surgical techniques and radiotherapy equipment continue to help counteract malignant tumors and potent cancers. Furthermore, the Indian government has enacted the National Clean Air Plan to reduce air pollution by 20 to 30 percent by 2024. This has prompted individual cities throughout the nation to limit their carbon output through the use of more efficient technologies and stricter regulations. India can continue to thrive as a global economic power while working to resolve its internal problems.

– Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Lesotho

Lesotho is a small, mountainous African kingdom surrounded by South Africa. Lesotho’s population is 72 percent rural and 80 percent are engaged in the agricultural sector, which has suffered greatly due to recent droughts, climate change and failed harvests. Lesotho is classified as a lower-middle-income country; however, 57 percent of its two million residents live below the poverty line. Here are eight facts about living conditions in Lesotho to know.

8 Facts About Living Conditions in Lesotho

  1. HIV/AIDS – In 2017, 23.8 percent of adults aged 15 to 49 in Lesotho had HIV, 320,000 people were living with HIV and there were 4,900 AIDs-related deaths. NGOs such as UNAIDS, UNICEF and the WHO have been working with Lesotho’s government to fast-track HIV prevention, testing and treatment. In 2017, 80 percent of people living with HIV in Lesotho were aware of their status, 74 percent of people with HIV were on treatment and 68 percent of people on treatment were virally suppressed.
  2. Tuberculosis – Around 405 out of 100,000 people suffer from tuberculosis (TB). This is one of the highest tuberculosis rates in southern Africa. This airborne bacterial disease is a huge public health crisis in Lesotho and is seen as a co-epidemic with HIV/AIDS. The crisis has narrowed substantially from the TB rate of 695 out of 100,000 people in 2007. Progress is being made, but there is still much to improve upon in terms of public health and living conditions in Lesotho.
  3. Access to Clean Water – The Highlands Water Project raises millions of dollars annually for Lesotho by selling water to its neighboring countries, primarily South Africa. Still, around 18.2 percent of people in Lesotho do not have access to clean drinking water. Many must walk for hours just to reach water access points that may or may not be in working order. The Metolong Dam Project is a promising project to help increase clean water accessibility. When completed in 2020, it is predicted that water supply will reach 90 percent of the district Maseru and sanitation coverage will increase from 15 to 20 percent.
  4. Food Insecurity – Drought in Lesotho combined with two successive crop failures, low incomes and high costs for food left more than 709,000 people in “urgent need of food assistance” from 2016 to 2017. The food insecurity crisis worsened with a steep reduction in harvest for Lesotho’s main crops of maize, sorghum and wheat between 2017 and 2018. The World Food Programme (WFP) is helping to reduce hunger in Lesotho by supporting more than 260,000 people affected by drought with monthly food distributions and cash-based transfers during the low-yield season.
  5. Stunting – One in three children under 5 years old are stunted as a result of chronic malnutrition. Acute malnutrition is a major problem in Lesotho’s population that affects children the most. Many NGOs focus on alleviating child hunger caused by poor living conditions in Lesotho. UNICEF provided support to 1,750 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in 2017 and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) helped 2,560 families start home-based gardens with vegetables to create a stable, healthy food source. In addition, the WFP currently provides free healthy school meals to more than 250,000 children in 1,173 of Lesotho’s primary schools.
  6. Housing – Around 70 percent of Lesotho residents live in substandard housing conditions with issues ranging from overcrowding to lack of toilets. Nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity operate in Lesotho to build homes for vulnerable populations, but individuals also can have a large impact on housing and development. A winning proposal by Javed Sultan for Climate CoLab laid out the success in building affordable and climate responsive homes for the elderly in Lesotho. Innovative and cost-effective building in Lesotho has the potential to help many people in housing poverty.
  7. Sanitation – Access to proper sanitation facilities has increased every year since 1994. In 2015, 30.3 percent of the population had access to improved sanitation facilities that included flushing systems, ventilation latrine pits and composting toilets ensuring hygienic separation from human waste. In 1994 only 22.6 percent had this level of sanitation. This shows that progress is being continually made to improve this area of living conditions in Lesotho, but there still is much to accomplish.
  8. Education – In 2010, Lesotho established Free and Compulsory Primary Education by law. The net lower basic enrollment ratio increased from 82 percent in 2000 to 95 percent in 2010. Lesotho also has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, with 85 percent of people over the age of 14 being literate. The Government of Lesotho allocates 23.3 percent of its annual budget, or 9.2 percent of Lesotho’s GDP, on the education sector showing its commitment to improving its education system.

These eight facts about living conditions in Lesotho show that there are still major issues including epidemics, water, hunger and sanitation crises that need to be further addressed. However, progress is being made to improve living conditions on many fronts due to the collaboration of charitable organizations and the Government of Lesotho.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

Vaccines for Vanuatu
In December of 2018, Vanuatu made headlines as the first nation to receive a vaccination delivered by a drone. Vanuatu is a remote island off the coast of Australia, directly west of Fiji, made up of more than 70 smaller islands. After winning their independence from Britain and France in 1980, many of the islanders maintain their traditional Melanesian culture and lifestyle with an economy revolving around fishing, agriculture and tourism.

Vaccines to Vanuatu

Most villages scattered across Vanuatu are only accessible by boat or mountain footpath, which makes it difficult to deliver vaccines in a timely and safe manner. Vaccines must be kept at precise temperatures, which the warm, wet climate of Vanuatu makes especially difficult. However, technology is making healthcare possible, even on the small island of Vanuatu.

An Australian-based drone company, Swoop Aero, is working to deliver vaccines to Vanuatu. This is the first time the Vanuatu government, or any government for that matter, has contracted a drone company. Funded by UNICEF and the Australian government, Swoop Aero’s mission is to provide networks of autonomous drones to transport medical supplies, on-demand, to the people who need them most. Currently, 85 percent of the world has access to vaccines; if used correctly, drones will increase this figure to 95 percent vaccine coverage worldwide.

Success at Cook’s Bay

Also in December, Swoop Aero held their first trial run to a small village in Vanuatu called Cook’s Bay.  Their drone traveled 25 miles to deliver hepatitis and tuberculosis (TB) vaccines to a one-month-old baby named Joy Nowai. She became the first person ever to receive vaccines from a drone. Almost 20 percent of children in Vanuatu under 5-years-old lack access to life-saving vaccines, but after a successful trial flight by Swoop Aero, drones will continue to bring vaccines to Vanuatu.

Here are some other ways drones are helping to improve healthcare:

  • A U.S. drone company called Zipline currently delivers blood and other medical supplies to doctors in Ghana and Rwanda. Zipline is planning to start delivering vaccines, specifically rabies vaccines, to Ghana and Rwanda in 2019.
  • UNICEF is running a humanitarian drone test corridor in Malawi. After being tested, these drones will be able to transport blood samples between hospitals to speed up HIV diagnoses, especially in infants, and deliver other humanitarian and medical supplies to doctors.
  • Drones are speeding up tuberculosis (TB) testing in Papua New Guinea. Fast diagnoses are essential to curing TB, and in Papua New Guinea, a country with dense jungles and rough roads; this is especially difficult to manage. Drones quickly transport diagnostic samples from remote health centers to hospitals and laboratories, allowing for a quick diagnosis and treatment for the patient.

Increasing Access to Healthcare, One Drone at a Time

In this new age of technology, drones are providing unprecedented levels of access to medical supplies, including vaccines, lab testing and blood samples. After a successful trial run delivering vaccines to Vanuatu, Swoop Aero, UNICEF and other drone companies like Zipline are looking forward to a time when 100 percent of people will have access to medical supplies and healthcare.

– Natalie Dell
Photo: Pixabay

effects of poverty
Poverty stretches across the globe affecting almost half of the world’s population. Its effects reach deeper. Uniquely connected to different causes, the effects of poverty are revolving—one result leads to another source leads to another consequence. To fully understand the effects of poverty, the causes have to be rooted out to develop strategies to end hunger and starvation for good. Let’s discuss some of the top effects of poverty.

Poor Health

Globally, millions suffer from poverty-related health conditions as infectious diseases ravage the lives of an estimated 14 million people a year and are of the top effects of poverty. These diseases are contracted through sources like contaminated water, the absence of water and sanitation, and lack of access to proper healthcare. The list is broad and long. Here are the top diseases commonly linked to poverty.

  • Malaria: Malaria is urbanely referred to as the poor man’s disease, as more than a million people living in poverty die from it each year. Caused by a parasite, malaria is contracted through mosquito bites. Most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, malaria affects the lives of many in 97 countries worldwide.
  • Tuberculosis: Often referred to as TB, tuberculosis is a bacteria-borne disease. The bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, targets the lungs. It also affects the kidneys, brain, and spine. When discussing the effects of TB worldwide, it must be broken down by burden—high burden TB and low burden TB—all of which has to do with the number of cases that impact a country. High burden TB affects more than 22 countries, as low burden TB accounts for 10 cases per 100,000 people in a geographical location.
  • HIV/AIDS: HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. This infection attacks the immune system and is contracted by contact with certain fluids in the body. If HIV is left untreated, certain infections and diseases can take over the body and cause a person to develop AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency syndrome). Thirty-six million people in the world have HIV/AIDS. In countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe, one in five adults live with HIV or AIDS.

Continuing the fight against poverty through economic expansion will help eliminate poverty-related illnesses and raise the value of health in poor communities.

Crime

There’s an old adage that says, “If a man don’t work, he don’t eat.” That’s not the case for a large number people living in poverty. Lack of economic opportunity leads to impoverishment which then leads to crime.

Global unemployment is at a high point. One hundred ninety-two million people around the world are jobless. In some parts of the world, mainly poor parts, unemployment standings will drive this number higher. In a study done on youth in the Caribbean, it was determined that joblessness fueled criminal activity in those aged 15 through 24.

Because of the struggles in the Caribbean job market, the murder rates are higher there than in any other region in the world. The crime rate affects 6.8 percent of the Caribbean population against the world average of 4.5 percent, calculating the global rate per 100,000 people.

People who live below the poverty line and don’t have access to sufficient economic opportunity, live by any dangerous means necessary.

Lack of Education

There is a direct correlation between low academic performance and poverty. Children who are exposed to extreme levels of poverty have difficulty with cognitive development, speech, and managing stress, which leads to adverse behavior.

In the country of Niger—the most illiterate nation in the world—only 15 percent of adults have the ability to read and write. Eritrea follows on the heels of Niger: with a population of 6 million, the average person only achieves four years of school.

In these poor locations, young adults and children have to leave school to work to help provide additional income for their families. Other children don’t have access to education due to decent schools being too far for them to travel to. On the other hand, schools nearby don’t have enough materials and resources to properly educate children. The conditions of the schools are just as poor as the children’s living conditions.

Where there’s poverty, there’s lack of education, joblessness, and poor health. The key to destroying the top effects of poverty is to attack the causes. More funding is needed for programs such as Child Fund International—a program that brings resources to children in poor communities. The International Economic Development Council supports economic developers by helping them create, retain, and expand jobs in their communities. And then there are the international efforts of the World Health Organization that fights to bring vaccinations and health-related resources to impoverished communities suffering from the infectious diseases of poverty. With these efforts along with other strategies, we can continue making strides to end the effects of poverty. 

– Naomi C. Kellogg 

 

Tuberculosis InfectionEvery year, 30,000 individuals in Papua New Guinea are newly infected with tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is an airborne infection that causes the bacteria mycobacterium tuberculosis to develop into a disease that destroys organ tissue most commonly in the lungs. It can be fatal if left untreated. From those 30,000, one out of four are diagnosed; one out of five receive treatment; and less than half get successfully treated. If left untreated, one person can infect 10 to 15 people every year.

Increasing incidences due to minimal health care, poor housing and nutrition have contributed to poverty, overcrowding and people failing to complete their treatment. In fact only 50 percent of individuals have access to adequate healthcare. Children face the greatest risk of contracting disabling forms of tuberculosis. Unfortunately, 10 percent of children die from tuberculosis.

Papua New Guinea’s island of Daru has the highest rate of tuberculosis infection in the world. Out of 150,000 people on the island, 160 get infected with drug-resistant tuberculosis as of January 2016. The rise of two aggressive strains of tuberculosis are a result of recent developments of antibiotic resistance.

This resistance stems from multidrug resistant and extensively drug resistant tuberculosis. To treat tuberculosis infection, a daily regimen of injections, oral medication and supervised medical care of anywhere between six to 24 months is recommended.

With funding from the United States Agency for International Development and the National Department of Health, FHI360 is hosting a series training courses for doctors to introduce Bedaquiline. Janssen Pharmaceuticals developed Bedaquiline, the first new class of antibiotics approved by the United States Food and Drug Association in more than 40 years.

By utilizing pharmacovigilance—the science of early detection and adverse effects—Bedaquiline is slowly being introduced to practitioners and their patients. In fact, 85 courses of Bedaquiline have already been distributed to Daru hospital.

Tiffany Santos
Photo: Flickr


Ghana plans to end tuberculosis (TB) and other lung related diseases by 2030 through the aid of diagnostic technology GeneXpert, according to Ghanaian doctor Frank Bonsu. He spoke at a press conference before the opening of the 20th Conference of the Union Africa Region on Lung Health. The four-day long conference, held approximately every two years, brings together more than 800 international and African delegates to discuss and plan tactics for eliminating TB and other lung diseases from the African continent.

Bonsu is the chairman of the conference as well as the program manager of Ghana’s National TB Control Programme. He said that although Ghana has made strides in fighting TB, there are still many cases that go undetected. Ideally, 44,000 cases of TB should be detected each year, but currently, only 15,000 are diagnosed. Bonsu blames the country’s lack of modern diagnostic equipment, its low number of microbiologists, the population’s poor awareness and the stigma of the disease that keeps people from seeking medical aid.

A combination of Ghana using GeneXpert and a reduction of the negative stigma against TB, Bonsu believes, is needed for an effective eradication. The National TB Control Programme also changed its emphasis from treating those who seek medical attention at facilities to its current outreach strategy in risk communities. The program hopes going out and offering aid will encourage early diagnosis, increase treatment and decrease stigma.

GeneXpert is a molecular test that can detect even the smallest amount of TB bacteria. It can also test for resistance to the common TB antibiotic Rifampicin. The main difference between GeneXpert and the other methods of TB detection, such as sputum microscopy, is its reliability and speed. GeneXpert can have results in less than two hours as opposed to weeks.

GeneXpert can only be used for diagnostic purposes and cannot be used to properly monitor treatment. It also does not eliminate the need for conventional microscopy culture and drug sensitivity testing, according to the World Health Organization, as these tactics are still needed to monitor treatment progress and detect other types of drug resistance. Yet GeneXpert is a major milestone in TB diagnostic technology.

With Ghana using GeneXpert, many more cases of TB can be caught early and treated more effectively. Ghana hopes that with the introduction of this new technology by the end of this year, along with outreach programs and a decrease in negative stigma, the country will be free of TB in 2030.

Hannah Kaiser

Photo: Flickr


Located in Southern Africa, Botswana is one of Africa’s most stable countries, with a solid economy built on diamonds and Safari-based tourism. However, the country continues to struggle with high rates of HIV/AIDS, as well as other preventable diseases. Here are the top three deadliest diseases in Botswana:

1. HIV
HIV is not only one of the deadliest diseases in Botswana, but it is also the number one cause of death, accounting for 32 percent of all deaths in the country. Despite the disease’s prevalence, the Ministry of Health’s national HIV program has helped efforts progress. Approximately 96 percent of people in need of HIV treatment in Botswana have received it. Increased prevention of mother-to-child transmission has reduced the transmission rate to less than four percent.

2. Malaria
While seven percent of deaths each year are due to malaria, Botswana has significantly reduced the disease’s burden. Government interventions, such as establishing rapid response teams and adequate healthcare facilities, has helped reduce incidences from 0.99 to 0.01 percent between 2000 and 2012. Botswana’s progress has not gone unnoticed. In 2016, the country received the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) award for its progress in reducing malaria.

3. Tuberculosis (TB)
Tuberculosis is very common in Botswana, causing six percent of deaths each year. Part of what makes TB so dangerous is that it is a common opportunistic infection in people with HIV. In Botswana, 75 percent of patients with TB are HIV-positive. TB rates began rising in Botswana with the increase in HIV/AIDS in the 1990s, with rates from 200 cases per 100,000 people in 1990 to 620 per 100,000 in 2002. With the help of international partners, the government has launched numerous programs aimed at increasing testing, prevention and awareness of the link between HIV and TB.

Despite its steady economy and stable government, Botswana continues to suffer from high rates of preventable diseases. That said, the government has made significant progress in reducing this prevalence of these diseases and continues to dedicate important time and resources to prevention.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr

Top Diseases in Lesotho
Lesotho is a small landlocked country in Southern Africa. The country, with a population of 2.1 million, suffers from high rates of poverty with more than 50 percent of the population living below the income poverty line of $1.25 a day. The majority (72 percent) of the population lives in rural areas far away from services, like healthcare.

Many people in Lesotho thus face barriers to accessing healthcare because of the cost of traveling to distant healthcare facilities. A shortage of skilled health workers only adds to this problem.

Lesotho has one of the highest mortality rates in Southern Africa and an average life expectancy of only 49 years. These are the top diseases in Lesotho:

  • HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis: Lesotho has the third highest HIV infection rate in the world, with almost 23 percent of adults aged 15-49 affected and more than 9,000 AIDS-related deaths in 2014. Of the people infected with HIV, 80 percent are also infected with tuberculosis.
  • Lower respiratory infections: Lower respiratory infections like pneumonia affect many people in Lesotho. Lower respiratory infections result in an annual mortality rate of 120 deaths per 100,000 people. One of the main causes of these infections is household air pollution from solid fuels used for cooking and heat.
  • Diarrheal Diseases: Lack of access to clean water and adequate sanitation contributes to high rates of diarrheal diseases. While diarrheal diseases do not necessarily cause many deaths, they contribute greatly to the overall disease burden in the country.
  • Non-communicable diseases: Like many other countries in Africa, Lesotho has seen a spike in cases of a non-communicable disease in recent years. This rise is due to various lifestyle risk factors like smoking, alcohol consumption, high blood pressure and obesity. The most common non-communicable diseases are cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer. In 2014, non-communicable diseases accounted for 27 percent of total deaths.

While most of the top diseases in Lesotho are infectious diseases, lifestyle diseases are increasingly contributing to the overall disease burden of the country.

Helena Jacobs

Photo: Flickr

Top Diseases in Russia
Geographically the largest nation in the world, Russia is known as a formidable global power. However, in terms of medical care, only seven percent of GDP is spent on health, lagging significantly behind the world average of 10 percent. With that, the impact of this policy is seen in the prevalence of several disease outbreaks throughout the country.

Here are the top diseases in Russia:

  1. Heart Disease. Amounting to approximately 737,000 fatalities in 2012, Ischemic Heart Disease or Coronary Artery Disease is the leading cause of death in Russia. Historical reports show diagnoses increased by 30 percent in the 1990s, reportedly brought about by a combination of economic factors and worsening nutritional habits. These rates have been sustained since and remain the ninth highest in the world.
  2. Tuberculosis. According to the State Department, Tuberculosis is endemic in Russia, and there is a rising incidence of multi-drug-resistant strains of TB. The disease is an airborne bacterial infection that can be transmitted by breathing contaminated air droplets from coughing and sneezing or by ingesting unpasteurized milk from infected cows. While more than 90 percent of infected people do not experience symptoms, the bacteria can remain inactive in the system for many years. Cases in Russia have frequently been reported around forms of public transportation.
  3. Encephalitis. Encephalitis refers to a viral infection that causes swelling of the brain. The most common instances reported in Russia are tick-borne encephalitis and Japanese encephalitis transmitted by mosquitoes. The disease is found throughout Siberia and another major outbreak has been occurring in eastern areas of the country near Vladivostok. Symptoms can be neurological or flu-like, and the risk has been shifting northward due to climate change.
  4. HIV/AIDS. Russia is unique within the European region as the only area still reporting rising infection rates of HIV. According to the World Health Organization, more than one million people live with HIV in Russia and it represents the third leading cause of death in the country. Cases are transmitted primarily by sexual contact and increasing drug use. Further, another contributing obstacle is the government’s refusal to acknowledge scientific research regarding treatments such as Opioid Substitution Therapy. These are dismissed as being too “narcoliberal” while other health programs simply receive no funding or are punishable with jail time.
  5. Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Including syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and hepatitis, many of the top diseases in Russia are also sexually transmitted. These diseases are passed on via bacteria, viruses or parasites through sexual contact, and can manifest with a variety of symptoms. Increasing rates in Russia are due to poor health education and a prominent sex tourism industry.
  6. Rabies. Due to the vast wilderness, rabies is another common disease in regions with many mammals where people could be easily scratched or bitten. Untreated, rabies is the most lethal on the list due to how quickly it attacks the nervous system. Of note, some remote areas with known outbreaks do offer daily vaccines, but health reports indicate these are unsafe and often result in serious side effects.
  7. Regional Diseases. Given the immense size of Russia, there are also many diseases that are only prevalent in specific areas of the country. Soil-transmitted helminths, or parasitic worms that live in the gastrointestinal system and lungs, are frequently reported near the Caucasus region. A West Nile outbreak also recently took place in more than eight southwestern states. Spread from cattle to humans via bacteria, anthrax is known around the Yamal peninsula. Finally, transmissions of Lyme disease from infected ticks are common in the Ural Mountains.

Combined with shortages of medical supplies and inadequate standards, this list highlights a number of public health challenges for the country. While not exhaustive, many of the top diseases in Russia are treatable or preventable. Therefore, many solutions could be as easy as allocating proper funding and taking reasonable precaution in risk-prone areas.

Zack Machuga

Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS: The Top Diseases in Namibia
Life expectancy in Namibia has risen over the past 10 years. However, the country still struggles with communicable diseases, which are the largest leading factors of deaths in Namibia. The top diseases in Namibia are tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

Namibia ranks fourth as one of the countries most afflicted by tuberculosis (TB). The burden of TB has significantly dropped since 2004, when it peaked at 350,000 incidents. Although the number has been steadily dropping — declining 9,950 last year — the number of incidents is up from the previous year.

Yet, this increase is not altogether a negative indication of the preventative methods being deployed to fight diseases in Namibia. In fact, the higher number is due to the new testing measures, which have been able to reach more Namibians and give them a more accurate screening for TB.

The majority of TB care and prevention is funded by the Namibian government (domestic). However, the strength of this epidemic is not one they can fully contain on their own. The Namibian government is in need of more resources than they currently have. The nature of TB, such as long-lasting dormancy and ease of contraction, makes the elimination of this disease difficult.

Unfortunately, the prevalence of HIV also fuels the high contraction rate of tuberculosis. About 41 percent of those with TB also have HIV. Due to a severely compromised immune system, HIV/AIDS and TB often mix for a lethal combination.

HIV/AIDS are currently the diseases in Namibia associated with the highest death rates, claiming over 3,500 lives each year. There are 214,956 diagnosed cases of HIV in Namibia and only 68 percent of them are receiving antiretroviral treatment (ARV). Unavailability of treatment is the leading contributor to the death rate among those with HIV. There are at least 42,500 people that are suffering from HIV in immediate need of antiretroviral medication.

The deputy health minister also pinpoints a weaken health care system as a factor in Namibia’s inability to treat a majority of HIV-positive patients. There are less than two health care workers for every 1000 citizens, fewer in remote areas. Retaining health care workers is a crisis in Namibia. Without the proper amount of healthcare providers to cater to the needs of the people, especially those with HIV, patients cannot receive care in a timely manner.

The U.S. is currently invested in aiding Namibia’s struggle with TB and HIV. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) acts with the Namibian government in a multitude of ways to help stop the epidemics of both HIV and TB.

Together they have increased care for orphans and vulnerable children, expanded testing and awareness. PEPFAR is also working to re-manage the congested healthcare centers to allow for better treatment. PEPFAR’s current aim is to help the Namibian government reach their goal to have 80 percent of those with HIV on ARVs by 2017.

The Namibian government feels that the prevention of HIV for the future begins with the youth of today. If they can explain the risks and the best ways to prevent HIV, before children or young adults get infected, the chance for new incidents will decrease.

As the past decade has shown, with the efforts of the Namibian government and foreign relief, the burden of diseases in Namibia can only continue to decline.

Amy Whitman

Photo: Flickr