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Did You Know? The Top 5 Most Common Communicable Diseases Worldwide

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According to reliable research, communicable diseases affect billions of people around the world annually. One might wonder what ‘communicable diseases’, also known as infectious diseases are. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines communicable diseases as “any pathogenic microorganism that can be spread directly or indirectly from one person to another”. There were 12,420 different diseases and health-related ailments as of 2011, with communicable diseases being the most common. In line with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO, these communicable diseases are the five most common globally:

1. Hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B is a severe liver infection that is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). This virus attacks and injures the liver, posing a high risk of death from liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. In highly endemic areas, hepatitis B is mostly spread from mother to child during birth. This kind of transmission is known as perinatal transmission. Hepatitis B can also be spread through horizontal transmission which is exposure to infected blood (from an infected child to an uninfected child during the first 5 years of life). It can also be transmitted through other body fluids, including sex with an infected partner, sharing needles and syringes, or exposure to sharp instruments.

Some symptoms of Hepatitis B include yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), dark-colored urine, nausea, extreme fatigue, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Hepatitis B can be prevented by vaccines that are safe, 99% effective, and available.

2. Malaria.

Malaria is an infectious disease caused by Plasmodium parasites that are spread to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. The first symptoms of malaria are fever, headache, and chills, which may be mild and difficult to diagnose as malaria. If not treated early, this may result in severe illness and lead to death. The population groups most prone to contracting malaria include infants, children below the age of 5, pregnant women and patients living with HIV/AIDS, as well as non-immune migrants, travelers, and mobile populations.

The WHO-recommended way to prevent and reduce transmission is vector control, which involves the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and indoor residual spraying. Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria can reduce disease and prevent deaths. However, resistance to antimalarial drugs is a recurring problem. Malaria can be prevented by the use of vaccines.

3. Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is a life-threatening liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus. This virus is usually spread through contact with blood from an infected person, mainly from mother to child during birth, sex with an infected person, blood transfusion, sharing of needles and syringes, etc. When one is first infected with the virus, one can have a mild illness with few symptoms or a severe condition requiring hospitalization.

Symptoms of Hepatitis C include yellow skin, jaundice, lack of appetite, upset stomach, vomiting, fever, dark-colored urine, light-colored stool, fatigue, and joint pain. If left untreated, chronic hepatitis C can cause severe health problems including liver failure, liver cancer, and even death. Hepatitis C can be cured and prevented.

4. Dengue.

Dengue fever is a severe flu-like viral illness spread to people through the bites of infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Dengue can be transmitted from mother to child and through infected blood and needles. The most common symptom of dengue is fever, accompanied by nausea, vomiting, rash, eye pain, muscle, bone, or joint pain. Infants and pregnant women are more likely to develop severe dengue, which is characterized by bleeding from the nose or gums and vomiting blood, or blood in the stool. According to the CDC, there is no known specific medicine to treat dengue, but treating the symptoms of dengue and seeking immediate healthcare is crucial.

5. Tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affects the lungs. It is spread from person to person through the air, especially when the infected person coughs or sneezes. Across the world, Tuberculosis is one of the top ten causes of death. It has also been declared the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent (above HIV/AIDS).

Although Tuberculosis mostly affects adults in their most productive years, it is present in all age groups and countries. In the year 2019, about 10 million people worldwide fell ill with tuberculosis (TB), according to the World Health Organization. Out of those, 5.6 million comprised of men, 3.2 million women, and 1.2 million represented children. People with compromised immune systems like HIV/AIDS patients, diabetes, malnutrition, or tobacco users, have a higher probability of falling ill with tuberculosis. The most common symptoms of active lung tuberculosis are coughing sputum and blood, chest pains, general body weakness, fever, weight loss, and night sweats. TB is a preventable, curable, and treatable disease.

Most communicable diseases can be prevented by maintaining good hygiene and sanitation. SDG 6 advocates for clean water and sanitation for all. With improvement in water and sanitation, the hygienic situation can be dealt with, hence preventing the spread of communicable diseases. Our course in Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) provides knowledge and insights on how to better achieve clean water, sanitation, and hygiene for all. Enroll with us today and get to be part of the intervention to alleviate suffering and ultimately save lives.



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