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  • HealthCare21
    The ongoing war against communicable disease outbreaks


On our 21st birthday, our team at HealthCare21 covered the significant advancements within the healthcare sector that occurred over the past 21 years. We will now be posting 21 developments that will be shaping the future of medical communications and healthcare delivery.

9. The World Health Organisation continues to tackle communicable disease outbreaks worldwide. In 2018, these are just some of the infectious disease threats to global health that we are likely to face.

More than 150 public health institutions in 110 countries work together on global influenza surveillance and response. However, the virus is unpredictable and, in this interconnected world, the next global flu outbreak is a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’ – with a severe pandemic possibly resulting in millions of deaths and destroying over 1% of global GDP.

Although easily prevented and treated, cholera kills nearly 100,000 people annually in communities weighed down by poverty and conflict. In 2017, oral cholera vaccines were used to protect 4.4 million people in nine high-risk countries. In 2018, WHO will support similar campaigns, alongside access to safe water, sanitation and improved hygiene.

The widespread use of the diphtheria vaccine has eradicated the disease in most parts of the world. However, diphtheria is making an alarming comeback in countries suffering from significant gaps in healthcare provision, with Venezuela, Indonesia, Yemen and Bangladesh (Cox’s Bazar) all requesting support from WHO for response operations, technical guidance and supplies of diphtheria medicines and vaccines.

WHO estimates that more than 200 million cases of malaria occur each year worldwide, over 400,000 of which resulting in death. Approximately 90% of malaria-related deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, with the rest occurring in South East Asia, South America, the Western Pacific and the Eastern Mediterranean.

A virulent new strain of meningococcal meningitis C is circulating along Africa’s meningitis belt – threatening 26 countries – at a time of acute global shortages of the meningitis C vaccine. The risk of large-scale epidemics is dangerously high, and more than 34 million people could be affected. More than 10% of people who fall ill with meningitis C die, and survivors often face severe neurological consequences.

A century ago, yellow fever decimated populations and destroyed economies. Mass vaccination led to dramatic improvements – but the early 2000s witnessed a resurgence of the acute viral haemorrhagic disease in Africa and the Americas, where 40 countries are considered at highest risk.

Every year, 600 million people – almost 1 in 10 people in the world – fall ill after eating contaminated food, 420,000 of which die. South Africa is currently battling the world’s largest listeriosis outbreak on record. In 2017, an outbreak of salmonellosis led to the recall of a contaminated batch of a French brand of baby formula from more than 80 countries and territories around the world.

Sources:

  • https://medium.com/@who/10-threats-to-global-health-in-2018-232daf0bbef3

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