Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Keeping Things In Perspective

While those of us in the developed world lament the shortcomings of our food processing industry and government regulatory bodies, it's instructive from time to time to look at the problems endemic in some of the less fortunate regions of the world.

Yesterday, the International Society for Infectious Diseases published an update on the incidence of cholera, dysentery and diarrhea. Here's a summary of the latest tally.
  • Nigeria. More than 60 children died from cholera in Cross River state in late January. The children, who were all between the ages of 1 and 2 years, were infected as a result of drinking untreated water due to a lack of safe drinking water.
  • Uganda. A cholera outbreak has been reported in the Kampala district. Six people have been diagnosed so far.
  • Angola. A cholera epidemic is winding down in Luanda after the government banned consumption of fish from a contaminated lagoon and distributed clean drinking water. The number of new cases reported for the week of January 28th declined to 30 from 37 the week before.
  • Congo. An outbreak of cholera has been in progress in the province of Katanga since September 2007. This epidemic has claimed 97 people so far, out of a total of 4029 confirmed cases.
  • Mozambique. Severe flooding in the city of Tete has provoked an epidemic of diarrhea due to contaminated water. The outbreak has affected 835 people – 64 fatally – since the beginning of the year.
  • Papua-New Guinea. An outbreak of dysentery in a high school has been blamed on contaminated drinking water.
  • India. A four-year old child was diagnosed with cholera. The child was treated in hospital and released.
Diseases such as cholera, diarrhea and dysentery are "diseases of disaster". They are endemic in areas where sanitation is poor and safe drinking water is difficult to procure. Natural or man-maid disasters often are the triggers that permit these diseases to explode into epidemics. Helping underdeveloped countries to acquire a safe, reliable drinking water supply is probably the single most important contribution that the developed world can make towards improving public health in the "Third World".

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