What comes to your mind when you think about the fastest growing diseases in the world? A majority of the people would think about diseases that were once a headline for causing an epidemic. However, trivial, everyday health conditions affect a much larger population of people across the globe.
Surprisingly, most of these issues would not even make the list of conditions that are leading causes of death worldwide. Yet, there is a higher diagnosis of them. In 2015, the WHO reported 56.4 million deaths worldwide, out of which nearly 68% of deaths were due to slow progression diseases. (1)
Many of these diseases are preventable by medicines, vaccines, and improved hygiene. The main problem arises when there are non-preventable factors such as locality, access to medical facilities, quality healthcare, affordability, and others. This article will talk about the five fastest growing diseases in the world and explain their symptoms, potential treatments, and preventive methods.
1- Dengue Fever
Dengue fever has become one of the rapidly growing mosquito-borne diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assesses more than 400 million reported dengue cases every year. (2) In addition, the WHO has confirmed at least 20 thousand deaths as a result of dengue fever.(3) Although all countries are trying to control dengue outbreaks, every year it continues to spread each year and targets more people.
Also known as break-bone fever, dengue initially has symptoms similar to the common flu. It is a viral disease, and four different types of viruses can cause it. Its transmission is made through Aedes mosquitoes particularly the Aedes aegypti, and sometimes by Aedes albopictus mosquito.
Epidemiological researches on dengue find a close connection of it with monkeys. As per the CDC, this transmission took place between 100 and 800 years ago. (4) However, dengue was never a global threat until the twentieth century.
The disease originated from Africa, but now it is present in most of the countries from the developed Western nations to third world countries.
An infected mosquito transmits the virus to a human. When a mosquito bites a person infected with dengue, the virus is also passed to the mosquito. It replicates inside the mosquito and further transmitted when this mosquito bites anyone else.
Symptoms of dengue appear after seven days of being bitten by an infected mosquito and vary from mild to chronic. It includes dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) and dengue shock syndrome (DSS). (5) A person exposed to dengue requires extreme care and immediate hospitalization.
The areas with the highest number of dengue cases are subtropical and tropical regions of Central and South America, Africa, Asia, Caribbean, and Pacific islands. In comparison with urban areas, its prevalence is higher in rural areas.
Unfortunately, there are no vaccines available for dengue. The only way to prevent catching dengue virus is by avoiding the dengue carrier mosquitos. Treatment of dengue is only possible if it is diagnosed before developing DSS or DHF.
HIV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the world, and every year, the number of cases is higher than before. This year it has targeted Eastern Europe at a very high rate, setting the record of fastest-growing HIV epidemic in the world. Before that, in 2017, approximately 130,000 people were diagnosed with HIV, showing a 29% increase in the incidence of HIV cases since 2010. (6)
The symptoms of HIV appear flu-like within one month of being exposed to the virus. They may also experience fever, malaise, and enlarged lymph nodes. With time, the immune system deteriorates, and the disease reaches the chronic stage causing multiple opportunistic infections. This advanced stage of HIV is called AIDS. Once a person reaches to AIDS stage, he is at a higher risk of complete health relapse.
HIV spreads via sexual contact, blood transfusion, shared/infected needles syringes, and from parent to offspring. However, HIV does not spread through saliva, sweat, shared swimming pools, casual contact, toilet seats, and insect bites.
HIV is asymptomatic in the majority of people. This means it does not show up for many years, and the person appears to be healthy. But during these years, the virus continues to replicate and damages the internal organs. On average, it takes ten years for the virus to cause visible symptoms. The early-stage symptoms appear like day-to-day problems i.e., fever, chills, pain, sore throat, sweating, weakness, weight loss, etc. A late-stage infection shows an inability to fight any infection. Once the body reaches to this stage, it is highly susceptible to opportunistic infections such as candidiasis, cervical cancer, Coccidioidomycosis, Toxoplasmosis, Cryptococcosis, HSV, Cryptosporidiosis, HIV-related encephalopathy, CMV, Histoplasmosis,Chronic intestinal isosporiasis, Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), Lymphoma, Tuberculosis, pneumonia, Progressive multifocal encephalopathy (PML), Salmonella infections, Wasting syndrome and many other deadly diseases. (7)
To prevent HIV, health experts advise to practice safe intercourse, use clean needles, and take regular medical check-ups.
Diabetes is among the top health crisis in the world. It targets hundreds of millions of people every year. Statistically, the World Health Organization confirms that the cases of diabetes have increased by 300% from 1980 to 2014. It also predicts it to spread even further, targeting 642 million people worldwide by the end of 2040. (8)
The cause of diabetes varies by type, but both type 1 and type 2 diabetes involve a sugar spike in blood. This high amount of sugar can cause a number of severe health problems such as cardiovascular diseases. Signs of diabetes type 1 and 2 include increased thirst, hunger, and urination. It may also cause a sudden, unexplained weight loss. A diabetic person suffers from fatigue, stress, irritability, and visionary problems. It is confirmed by a urine test that detects the presence of ketones. These ketones are a sign that the body is producing low or no insulin at all.
Although there are no exact causes of diabetes unknown, people with a family history are at high risk. Other factors such as environmental changes, geographical region, personal health profile, low immunity, BMI, inactivity, cholesterol, blood pressure, and PCOS may also contribute to develop diabetes.
People who are overweight, eat junk food, and have a sedentary lifestyle are at a higher risk of diabetes. If not treated, diabetes can cause heart problems, nerve damage, kidney damage, diabetic retinopathy, skin problems, hearing impairment, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Prevention plan of diabetes includes maintaining healthy body weight and lifestyle. For instance, a person to be physically active, follow a healthy diet and avoid tobacco, alcohol, drugs, etc.
4- Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is an illness linked with tick bites. Although it looks like a typical insect bite case but Lyme disease is another fastest growing vector-borne epidemic. Even worse is that it is challenging to diagnose, which is why health experts have declared it as a public threat.
In Lyme’s disease, the vector is a bacterium named Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacterium is transmitted to humans through ticks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 300,000 reported cases of Lyme disease each year in the US alone. The areas of highest diagnosed cases are Asia, central and Eastern Europe, and the USA. (9)
The typical onset of Lyme disease is in the summer. The infection starts as a ring on the skin with a visible central zone. The common signs of Lyme disease are fever, chills, pain, etc. It takes three to four weeks to show complications.
Lyme disease is sometimes called an “imitator” because sometimes it looks like a lot of other diseases like multiple sclerosis or Bell’s palsy. Lyme disease is treatable at early stages. However, if it is undiagnosed, it gets worse and is hard to treat.
Once a person is infected, it spreads to the muscular and nervous system and doesn’t show any progress to any antibiotic treatment. Patients of Lyme disease experience sensitivity, nausea, stress, fatigue, breathing difficulties, and even cognitive impairment.
To prevent this disease, try using an insect repellant in outdoors. Avoid walking in high grass and check for tick bites after returning home. Sometimes the ticks are transferred from pets too. Just in case check the pets for ticks infestation.
HPV or Human Papilloma Virus is a public health issue, and it’s another fastest growing sexually transmitted infection worldwide. It is a hidden epidemic in the USA with 24 million active cases and 5.5 million new cases annually, as per National Cancer Institute. (10) The main reason behind this widespread HPV is public ignorance.
Recent stats show that young women are at a high risk of HPV, leading to cervical cancer. This HPV linked cervical cancer is 9th highly prevalent type of cancer in women. (11)
HPV is highly contagious, and it spreads from sexual intercourse or other forms of skin-to-skin genital contact. It starts as a wart but eventually develops into cancer.
HPV appears as genital warts; these are small bumps around vulva in women and on the scrotum in men. They may also appear around groin and anus in some cases. These warts are subcategorized in common warts, plantar warts, and flat warts.
A sexually active person with multiple sexual partners and follows unsafe sex is at high risk. Not every wart is caused by HPV. Only a certified doctor can diagnose HPV by visual inspection and additional diagnostic tests i.e., blood tests, DNA tests, and biopsy.
Unfortunately, there is no as such preventive plan of HPV infection. However, safe sex, vaccination, limiting to one sexual partner, and time-to-time regular check-ups can reduce the risk.