The World May No Longer Know These 4 Deadly Diseases By 2030
In all of human history, we’ve only ever been able to completely wipe out one disease: smallpox. Declared eradicated by the World Health Organization in 1980, smallpox was cleared from the face of the Earth following an aggressive global immunization campaign.
The annual letter by Bill and Melinda Gates was recently published, and it includes some predictions for the future primarily in the way of public health.
The letter ambitiously hopes and predicts that the world will have eradicated four diseases from the Earth in the next 15 years, thanks in part to vaccines and drugs becoming more readily accessible with time.
The letter isn’t specific on which four diseases those will be, although it strongly predicts polio and Guinea worm as being two of the four. Other possible candidates for the remaining two include elephantiasis, river blindness and blinding trachoma.
“The drugs that can stop these scourges are now being donated in huge numbers by pharmaceutical companies, and they’re being used more strategically thanks to advances in digital maps that show where diseases are most prevalent,” the Gates letter states. “We can get polio out of Africa this year and out of every country in the world in the next several years.”
A Clean Slate
Polio (short for poiliomyelitis) is caused by a virus that invades the nervous system, resulting in fever, headaches, limb pain and paralysis in some cases. While there is no cure, there is a vaccine to prevent the disease.
Three countries remain polio-endemic today – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan – with the disease common and sustained. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention additionally reported that there were scattered cases in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq and Syria in 2014 for a total of 350 cases worldwide.
Since 1998, the incidence of polio has been down by more than 99 percent, according to WHO. And with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the dream of global eradication of polio may be within easy grasp.
The Gates letter also specifically targets Guinea worm, stating, “Guinea worm, an incredibly painful disease whose sufferers spend months incapacitated while worms that can be several feel long burst out of their legs, will also be gone soon, thanks in large part to the leadership of President Jimmy Carter and the Carter Center.”
The Carter Center Guinea worm eradication program has existed since 1986.
The disease is caused by the roundworm Dracunculus medinisis which is contracted when the victim drinks stagnant, contaminated water. Once consumed, the Guinea worm can remain inside the victim’s body for up to a year and grow to be several feet long.
One method that can be used to remove Guinea worm from the body is to slowly draw it out (once it emerges from the body) by wrapping it around a stick.
The painful and bizarre disease is luckily on track to be the second disease to be eradicated after smallpox according to public health experts.
Since the disease is easily diagnosed and can be controlled with simple interventions like clean-water campaigns, the WHO identifies it as an eradicable disease. In 2014, only 126 cases were reported worldwide. Country by country, it is disappearing – on January 15, Ghana became the latest country to be declared Guinea worm free.
“Life will get better, faster, because the number of innovations reaching the poor will be greater than ever before,” concludes the letter on the topic.
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