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Recently I wrote a diary about Dengue Fever, a tropical disease that is caused by a mosquito transmitted virus, I mentioned that it was classed as a “neglected disease” by the World Health Organization. I’d like to talk about some of the other neglected diseases, what causes them, how they are spread and, most importantly, who they affect and how they impact on the rest of the world. In up coming diaries, I will focus on each one as I did with Dengue.
First, why are these diseases neglected? It is mostly because they are diseases of of poverty. Until these diseases impact on the wealthy in some way, treatment and prevention will remain a struggle for the countries and people where they are endemic. The lives of over one billion people are impacted in developing regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Some of these diseases have known preventive measures or acute medical treatments which are available in the developed world but which are not universally available in poorer areas. In some cases, the treatments are relatively inexpensive. For example, the treatment for schistosomiasis is $0.20 per child per year. In the last few years, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The Carter Center have brought attention to the diseases caused by flavivirus, trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) and parasitic worms.
These are the diseases classified as neglected by WHO:
* Buruli Ulcer
* Chagas disease(American trypanosomiasis)
* Dengue/dengue haemorrhagic fever
* Dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease)
* Human African trypanosomiasis
* Lymphatic filariasis
* Soil transmitted helminthiasis
I’m fairly certain most of you have never heard of most of them and might be a bit surprised by one that is on that list, Rabies, which is a virus spread by wild and domestic animal bites. It is endemic on every continent except Antarctica and is easily treatable and can be controlled and prevented. Yet, here it is on a list of neglected diseases.
I look forward to your comments and questions which I will try to answer as best I can.
The next diary will focus on Dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease) and its eradication.