5/13/2009

And you're scared of swine flu

Esto me lo envió una amiga y pensé en compartirlo. Muy à propos. Y es de Foreign Policy, así que no es "mi" percepción, opinión, teoría.

The List: Five Disease Outbreaks That Are Worse Than Swine Flu
By Joshua Keating
Page 1 of 1
Foreign Policy
Posted May 2009 
Swine flu has infected 1,500 people worldwide and killed around 30, almost all in Mexico. But it is far from the world's most serious disease outbreak. Here are five you probably won't see on the evening news.


DESMOND KWANDE/AFP/Getty Images
CHOLERA 

What is it?  An acute diarrheal infection that can lead to death from dehydration or severe kidney failure. Unlike other diarrheal diseases, it is often deadly in both children and adults. 
Where is it? Worried about a pandemic? Cholera has been a global scourge since 1961. The disease is endemic in many parts of Africa, Southern Asia, and Latin America. New infections jumped 96 percent in 2006. The growing severity of the disease is likely due to overpopulation in areas without sufficient sanitation. 
Current outbreak: In what the World Health Organization described as the "worst case scenario," a cholera outbreak that began in August 2008 has infected more than 96,000 people in Zimbabwe, resulting in over 4,200 deaths. The country's lack of water and sewer infrastructure has exacerbated the problem, not to mention the fact that many Zimbabwean doctors are refusing to work for Zimbabwe's virtually worthless currency. In recent months, the number of new reported cases has declined, but the WHO warns that a return of the disease is likely in August.


ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images
SPINAL MENINGITIS

What is it? An infection of the fluid around the spinal cord and brain. Severe cases of bacterial meningitis can result in brain damage or death if not treated quickly. 
Where is it? Outbreaks of meningitis appear frequently in the northern Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa, known to researchers as the "meningitis belt." The latest outbreak has been particularly severe in Nigeria, Niger, and Chad. 
Current outbreak: Since the beginning of 2009, a meningitis outbreak has killed more than 1,900 people in the three countries -- 1,500 in Nigeria alone. More than 56,000 cases have been reported in the worst outbreak of the disease since 1996, when at least 25,000 people died. In Chad, where meningitis drugs are difficult to find, one in 10 people infected with the disease dies. It is thought that an unusually cold climate has made the outbreak worse than normal this year.  In response, NGO Médecins Sans Frontieres has launched its largest-ever vaccination campaign for any disease. The group has already vaccinated 5.4 million people and plans to vaccinate another 1.7 million.

China Photos/Getty Images
AIDS 

What is it? A disease affecting the human immune system, making individuals more susceptible to deadly infections. AIDS has killed 25 million people around the world since 1981.
Where is it? 33 million people around the world are currently living with the AIDS virus, 22 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa. New drugs make it possible to dramatically extend the length and quality of life of AIDS patients, but in developing countries, less than a third of those in immediate need of treatment receive the drugs.
Current outbreak: China has attracted international attention for the draconian measures it has taken to prevent a swine flu outbreak, but it has been less quick to react to the AIDS epidemic that killed 7,000 people throughout the country in the first nine months of 2008 alone. AIDS quietly became the deadliest infectious disease in the country last year, beating out tuberculosis. China's numbers are still relatively smaller relative to world totals, but their rise has been meteoric. Three years ago, fewer than 8,000 people had ever died of AIDS in China. Efforts to get accurate reporting on the epidemic is difficult in the country because of the stigma attached to the disease -- nearly half of Chinese say they would never eat with an HIV-positive person -- and because local officials intentionally underreport numbers in order to stay out of trouble with Beijing. 

DESIREY MINKOH/AFP/Getty Images
EBOLA 

What is it? A severe viral disease in humans and primates that causes fever, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and in some cases internal bleeding and skin rash. Ebola has a very high fatality rate, up to 90 percent in some outbreaks, and has appeared sporadically since 1976. The disease tends to infect healthcare workers or family members who bury the dead.
Where is it? So far, outbreaks of the most deadly form of Ebola, the Zaire strain, have only appeared in central Africa, where unsterile hospital conditions make the transmission of the virus through personal contact or bodily fluids more likely. Congo, Uganda, and Sudan have suffered the worst outbreaks. The non-fatal (unless you're a monkey) Ebola-Reston strain has appeared in the United States, Italy, and the Philippines. 
Current outbreak: The most recent outbreak of the disease in Congo was declared over in mid-February after 32 cases and 15 deaths. 2007's outbreak was more severe, resulting in 187 deaths, 71 percent of those affected. Uganda, Sudan, and Gabon have also suffered outbreaks in the last decade. The good news? Ebola is unlikely to develop into a pandemic because of the difficulty of transmission, but its terrifyingly high fatality rate has caused countries to close their borders in order to prevent its spread.



STR/AFP/Getty Images
DENGUE FEVER

What is it? An infection spread by mosquitoes that causes acute muscle and joint pain.  Cases are generally non-lethal but dengue occasionally results in a deadly hemorrhagic fever. 
Where is it? Dengue fever outbreaks have been reported in the tropics for centuries, but until 1970, only around 9 countries had been afflicted. Infections have spiked dramatically in dozens of countries in recent years, and there are now an estimated 50 million infections per year. Around two fifths of the world's population is currently at risk for the disease, according to the WHO. Latin America has been particularly susceptible. Unlike other mosquito borne-diseases, such as malaria, dengue affects both urban and rural areas.
Current outbreak: While the world's attention has been focused on Mexico's swine flu, a severe dengue outbreak infected 50,000 people in Bolivia and more than 20,000 in Argentina. (Georgetown's Michael Shifterwrote for FP this week about how the Argentine government's slow response to the crisis has become a scandal in Buenos Aires.) Exact figures are difficult to obtain due to underreporting, but the death toll is thought to be in the hundreds. Australia is also struggling to contain a dengue outbreak that has infected nearly 1,000 people.




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