Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are the worst types of infectious diseases affecting more than a billion people in the poorest countries in the world.
These poorest countries referred to are located in Latin America, Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. More than half a million people die of these diseases each year.
NTDs lead to poverty and physical, psychological and emotional disability brought about by many factors.
Reasons why NTDs have long been neglected:
- They affect people primarily from the poorest countries in the world where efforts to eradicate these diseases have been side-tracked and taken for granted
- The awareness level for this types of diseases is very, very low.
- In recent years, only malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS have been given much attention due to their high death rate. There is also a high level of awareness about these three diseases.
- Most of the diseases do not show early symptoms. They have very long incubation periods preventing early detection and treatment,
The 13 identified neglected tropical diseases
There is a conflicting number of neglected tropical diseases. CDC, The WHO and experts in tropical medicine have conflicting data as to which diseases should be included in the list.
There are currently 13 identified neglected tropical diseases according to a researcher in tropical diseases namely:
1. Lymphatic filariasis. More commonly called elephantiasis, this disease is caused by filarial worms which are carried by mosquitoes from an infected person.
This disease has no symptoms but the affected individual experiences enlargement of the arms and legs, sometimes the breasts and the male genitalia.
This leaves a long-lasting physical and psychological damage to the person as he constantly experiences chronic pain, develops some kind of a genital disease and develops lymphoedema of the limbs.
2. Onchocerciasis. Also called River Blindness, this disease is caused by the onchocerca volvulus worm which thrives and breeds along rivers and streams. The worm is transferred from one person to another by the black fly.
The disease can be prevented by avoiding the bite of the black fly and by the use of insecticides.
Those who are sick of the disease are being treated with the medicine called ivermectin.
There is no vaccine for onchocerciasis.
Symptoms: blisters under the skin, exreme itchiness, and worst, blindness.
3. Dracunculiasis. This disease also called guinea worm disease occurs when a person is infected by contaminated water containing water fleas that carry larvae of the guinea worm.
4. Schistosomiasis. This disease is also called Snail Fever and caused by the parasitic worm called schistosomes.
Symptoms include pain in the abdomen, diarrhea, high white blood cell count, fever, blood in the stool and urine.
Those who have been suffering from this disease for a long time would experience infertility, bladder cancer, kidney failure, and disease of the liver.
Children may experience slow development and poor physical growth.
5. Chagas' disease
6. human African tripanosomiasis
8. Buruli ulcer
12. hookworm infection; and
What is being done to prevent and eradicate these neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)
Preventing the further spread and finally eradicating these diseases are urgent issues because of the negative life-changing effects they bring to affected people such as physical disfigurement, blindness, various kinds of disabilities, and social stigma.
- Support from pharmaceutical companies. Mass drug administration has been implemented to help eradicate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) especially filiariasis, trachoma and onchocerciasis.
- Implementation of policies to eradicate NTDs
- Support from various NGOs and funding agencies such as the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the UK Department for International Development, World Health Organization, and the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation.
School children in Rwanda receiving drugs for tropical diseases
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