Neglected tropical diseases are transmitted diseases caused by parasites, and are usually found in tropical and subtropical regions. They mostly affect people in poverty who live in unsanitary conditions. Most of these neglected tropical diseases can be easily prevented with treatments and vaccinations that are affordable.
More than 1.3 billion people across 72 countries might be at risk for this disease, and more than 120 million people are infected by it. Lymphatic filariasis is caused by infections from parasites called filarial worms and leads to abnormal enlargements of body parts, which causes great pain. The disease is better known as elephantiasis. There has been some success in stopping the spread of the disease by using preventive chemotherapy. The disease can also be treated with a care package that alleviates pain and prevents any more disfigurement.
Onchocerciasis (River Blindness)
The River Blindness disease gets its name from the black flies that are found in fast-flowing streams and rivers. Infections cause blindness and skin disease. Ninety percent of cases occur in Africa, with a lot of cases in Latin America and Yemen as well. Long-term skin damage and blindness can be prevented with a medicine called ivermectin.
Schistosomiasis (Snail Fever)
Schistosomiasis gets the nickname “snail fever” from freshwater snails carrying the disease. Children can be highly susceptible to the disease when they swim and fish in infested waters. Snail fever has spread in a lot of poor areas in Africa because of migrations and population movements, but the World Health Organization has worked to spread awareness and treat infections. The WHO even implemented campaigns to distribute praziquantel, which can be a large-scale treatment of schistosomiasis.
Ascariasis (Roundworm Infection)
Ascariasis is one of the most common neglected tropical diseases, infecting more than one billion people per year and causing 60,000 deaths each year. The disease is caused by a parasitic roundworm called Ascaris lumbricoides. More than one hundred worms can infect a human at a time. The earthworm eggs can be accidentally ingested through contaminated food, water and soil. Some symptoms can be minor, such as coughing, loss of appetite and a fever. In severe cases, it can cause malnutrition, intestinal blockage and pneumonia. There have been companies donating to help fight the disease, such as Johnson and Johnson, pledging to donate 200 million tablets of mebendazole by 2020, and GlaxoSmithKline, donating one billion tablets of albendazole a year.
Trachoma is another eye disease that is much more severe than River Blindness. It is one of the most infectious causes of blindness and affects about 1.9 million people. Trachoma is either spread through physical contact with the eye or nose discharge from other people. Fleets of flies have been known to carry the disease as well. This neglected tropical disease mostly affects women and young children in poor rural areas in Africa and Asia. The World Health Assembly has adopted Resolution WHA51.11 which is geared towards eliminating the disease by 2020.
With continued intervention from governments, NGOs and corporations, these neglected tropical diseases can be effectively targeted and eliminated, ensuring lives of enhanced productivity and prosperity for millions of people around the world.
– Emma Majewski