It’s a sad fact that preventable diseases claim so many lives each year, particularly in regions of Africa where healthcare is unreliable. Many Africans don’t have access to clean drinking water, proper sanitation or medicine, and deadly diseases — some, preventable –may be a part of their everyday lives. Here are the 10 most common deadly African diseases.
Sources: InfoPlease.com, AnswersAfrica.com, Ultimate-Survival-Training.com
The mosquito-borne disease affects more than 500 million people annually, claiming between one million and three million lives each year, and is widely considered to be the deadliest disease in the world. Sub-Saharan Africa suffers the most, with nearly 90 percent of these cases, and children are disproportionately affected. Sadly, the illness was nearly eradicated completely 30 years ago, but has since come back with a vengeance.
The HIV and AIDS epidemic has been steadily growing worse each year, and of the 33 million people affected in the world, 65 percent live in sub-Saharan Africa. While treatment options are growing, the high price of medicine remains one of the biggest obstacles to tackling the epidemic. Insufficient sexual health education continues to be a problem too.
Tuberculosis or TB has become one of the deadliest diseases in Africa, often going hand-in-hand with HIV and AIDS. More than 8 million new TB cases are recorded each year, and more than half of those infected die if untreated. It’s estimated that a new TB infection occurs once every second in Africa due to malnutrition, a lack of immunization, and the mitigating prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
Another mosquito-borne illness, dengue fever is estimated to affect more than 50 million people each year. Outbreaks are most common in Africa and Asia. High fevers, pounding headaches, muscle and joint pain, and potential circulatory failure are all symptoms. Those suffering from it need to seek treatment which isn’t always readily available to ward off the worst possible outcome.
Spread by the tsetse fly in many African countries, African trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness can cause extreme neurological damage from damaged sleep cycles when left untreated, resulting in death. The World Health Organization estimates more than 450,000 cases occur annually.
A water-borne disease, cholera is spread through contaminated drinking water. It has been very difficult to combat in sub-Saharan Africa. Sierra Leone and Ghana both had serious recent outbreaks with tens of thousands of people infected. Governments have had to declare national emergencies to deal with the disease. Without proper hydration and removal from the source of unsanitary conditions, cholera can often result in death.
Known colloquially as river blindness, onchocerciasis is a parasitic worm that can enter the human body and live there for years. Nearly 100 percent of the 18-million river blindness cases have been recorded in Africa. Victims suffer from skin infections, lesions, and visual impairment often resulting in complete blindness.
Though some cases can be mild, severe diarrhea can be fatal, especially for children or the infirm. Diarrhea is often associated with other diseases, but is pinpointed for more than 8 percent of all deaths in Africa each year. High rates of malnutrition and unsanitary conditions leading to contaminated drinking water make diarrhea prevalent. Extreme dehydration is often a concern for those suffering from diarrhea.
One of the most common illnesses around the globe, pneumonia and other respiratory infections are the leading cause of death for Africans. With unreliable access to healthcare facilities, it is extremely difficult for infected people to receive treatment. An estimated 4.2 million people die each year from pneumonia or like illnesses, and a disproportionate number come from Africa.
Meningitis can be a severely debilitating disease, hampering quality of life even long after recovery. Most often found in northern and central Africa, the disease infects the brain and spinal cord, accounting for its shockingly high mortality rate. Nearly 175,000 people die each year from meningitis, according to recent World Health Organization estimates, and thousands more are left with permanent brain damage or vision and hearing impairments.