Infectious Diseases

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Illness and death from infectious diseases are particularly tragic because they are preventable and treatable. Not surprisingly, the poorest and most vulnerable are the most severely affected by infectious disease. Infectious diseases are a major cause of death, disability and social and economic turmoil for millions around the world. Poverty stricken countries lack access to health care. Reports show that in nations with the lowest economic status the causes of death are primarily infectious and nutritional diseases. Respiratory infections like the flu, pneumonia, diphtheria, and tuberculosis and gastrointestinal illnesses like dysentery and viral diarrhea kill children and adults most commonly in these countries. Unlike the United States, many children in these poor countries do not survive childhood diseases like chicken pox and measles. Also different from the United States, over 50% of deaths were due to infectious and parasitic diseases. In these developing countries chronic diseases such as cancer are only responsible for one fourth of all deaths, whereas in the US chronic diseases are responsible for about three fourths of all deaths. Very crowded and poor living conditions make the people living in poverty vulnerable to infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and cholera. Poor nutrition and poor immune systems are high risk factors for several major killers including lower respiratory infections, tuberculosis and measles. In these poor countries there is limited access to health care. For example according to table 21.3, in the United States there are approximately 406 people per every doctor. In a poor country such as Ethiopia there are as many as 36,660 people per doctor. This means that for each person in the country to get seen one time a year every doctor would have to see over 100 patients a day every day of the week. Limited access to drugs makes treatable conditions like malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis fatal for the poor.

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