Poor health is not only an effect of poverty but also is one of its root causes. This is particularly true for Central America’s second poorest country, Honduras, where 62.8% of the population lives in poverty. Many of the top diseases in Honduras are preventable; however, the fact that Honduras is not a first-world country with good access to health care makes illness more severe.
Without access to affordable health care, a lack of clean water and sanitation methods and a shortage of health centers, the poor are most susceptible to becoming ill from diseases in Honduras.
But what are the top diseases in Honduras?
Diabetes is the second-leading cause of death amongst Hondurans and occurs when a person’s pancreas fails to make enough insulin or does not use insulin correctly. As a result, people who suffer from diabetes often experience an increase in exhaustion, hunger, thirst, urination and weight loss.
For the 3.6 million people who live in rural areas, diabetes is a severe problem and one of the more menacing top diseases in Honduras. While it is an arguably treatable disease in first-world countries, diabetes can be fatal for those who do not live near clinics with adequate testing methods, or for those who do not live near clinics at all. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reveals that Latin American clinics rarely have the tools to diagnose diabetes early.
Cerebrovascular and Ischemic Diseases
Cerebrovascular disease causes 6.1% of mortalities in Honduras and refers to any condition that restricts blood flow to the brain, such as stroke, embolism or aneurysm. Ischemia includes coronary heart or artery diseases that usually result in heart attack.
Those who smoke, have high blood pressure, have diabetes, have high cholesterol or are obese are at higher risk of developing a cerebrovascular or ischemic disorder. This is especially concerning for Honduras, where the World Bank reports seeing a rise in overweight individuals eating high-fat diets with decreased levels of physical activity.
Lower Respiratory Diseases and Influenza
According to an NIH study, respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia, are the primary cause of death among children five years old or younger living in rural regions.
Tropical regions often see a higher frequency and hospitalization rate for the flu than more northern areas of the world. The study also showed that parainfluenza and influenza were the most prevalent viral agents amid the children surveyed. While the flu is a common and treatable occurrence in the developed world, that is not the case for resource-poor Honduras.
In 2015, there were 20,000 Hondurans living with HIV, 1,000 died due to AIDS and 18,000 children became orphans. Honduras’ most at-risk citizens include sex workers, men who have sex with men, inmates and the ethnic group known as the Garifuna.
An Afro-Caribbean community whose descendants were West African slaves, the Garifuna are not only marginalized from the rest of society but also more likely to live in poverty, experience gender discrimination and lack access to health care or education. These are all contributing factors as to why the Garifuna’s HIV prevalence rate is 4.5% — five times Honduras’ national rate.
Malaria, Dengue Fever and Zika
Some of the top diseases in Honduras are transmitted via mosquitos. Mosquito-born diseases are extremely common in most Latin American countries, including Honduras. Luckily, cases of malaria in Honduras decreased by 78% between 2000 and 2011 due to community awareness education. The government aims to eliminate malaria’s deadliest strain by next year.
In 2013, Honduras experienced a widespread outbreak of Dengue fever which resulted in death in five percent of all cases due to hemorrhage. Although Dengue is typical in urban environments, it is a real concern for Honduras’ rural regions riddled with trash sites and where water is not regularly delivered. With piles of trash and pools of stagnant water, rural Hondurans are at severe risk of being infected.
Currently, there is an outbreak of Zika in Honduras. While many people infected with the Zika virus do not show any symptoms, it can lead to neurological difficulties such as Guillan-Barré syndrome, which causes temporary paralysis, and microcephaly in babies with Zika-infected mothers. Honduras recently declared a state of emergency over Zika after noticing a spike in the infection rate.
– Kristina Evans