From time to time, different diseases and viruses see an increase in cases. It is important to know which ailments may be on the rise, in order to aid in prevention and awareness. While some countries may experience outbreaks that are dissimilar to other areas around the world, some are prevalent internationally. We’ve compiled a list of 4 that have had a recent global impact but especially in America:
This winter, you make have come in contact with the norovirus. If you haven’t caught it yourself, chances are quite high that you’ve been around someone who has. A highly infectious seasonal virus – also known as the “winter vomiting bug” (yuck!) – it rapidly creates new strains that originate from local areas, before spreading internationally. With 675 hospital outbreaks (those are entire hospital units/floors) in the U.K. alone, norovirus has seen close to a 60% increase in cases, when comparing January 2012 to January 2013 (Source: Health Protection Agency).
The current dominant strain – dubbed Sydney 2012, for originating in Australia – was responsible for 53% of cases in America, between September and December (Source: Centre for Disease Control and Prevention). One reason the virus spreads so far is the tiny amount required to infect unsuspecting people. As John Harris of the Health Protection Agency puts it, “the dot on this “i” is large enough to contain about 10,000 norovirus particles”, yet you only need 10-100 particles to become sick (Source: The Star).
To combat such a nasty outbreak, disinfection and proper hand hygiene are key. Thoroughly washing your hands regularly, as well as washing all fruits and vegetables will make a large impact. Your clothing can pick up viruses and bacteria in public so it is wise to regularly wash them with the right amount of detergent. Remember to also disinfect household surfaces and also avoid caring for others, if you become ill.
Pertussis, commonly known as “whooping cough”, has been extremely prevalent across America, in the last year. With 41,000 cases reported across the US in 2012, it was the worst year for this bacterial infection since 1955. While most American children receive a vaccination for whooping cough, the longevity of the effects of the vaccine used since 1997 are not as long-lived as their predecessor (Source: news.discovery.com).
Often characterised by severe coughing, symptoms tend to start with those of a common cold. The infection generally lasts around 6 weeks and can often be confused for a cold or pneumonia, depending on symptoms shown at the time of your visit to the doctor. A mucus sample is often required, in order to make a proper diagnosis. Antibiotics like erythromycin are often prescribed for patients suffering from whooping cough. One upside to such a virus is the strong ability the body has to gain immunity, once infected. If you have come down with whooping cough, you will most likely be immune from contracting it again.
Over the course of the last decade, there has been a steep increase in the number of type 1 and type 2 diabetes cases, in young people. The SEARCH for Diabetes Youth study – a joint study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health – discovered a 23% increase in type 1 diabetes, along with a 21% increase in type 2 diabetes, in a diverse study of geographical locations and ethnic groups across America. Internationally, there has been an annual 3% increase in the rate of youth diabetes cases, in that time.
Young people with diabetes are at risk of nerve damage, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, strokes and various other complications. The causes of type 1 diabetes are still unknown. It results in the body creating little to no insulin and requires daily insulin injections. Type 2 diabetes generally occurs during adulthood. It has been linked to obesity: oftentimes singled out as the highest risk factor, especially in teens and young adults. The increase in diabetes may be caused by a lack of mature immune systems due to over-sterilization of our environments, autoimmune attacks due to fast weight-gain during childhood, as well as improper dietary changes (Source: American Diabetes Association).
Proper diet, exercise and lifestyle requirements can greatly aid in defending against type 2 diabetes. In some cases, this can even reverse the disease (Source: National Centre of Biotechnology Information). All of these means can aid in controlling blood sugar and lowering cholesterol to manageable levels, while preventing severe symptoms and related problems.
During the last 4 decades, there has been a very drastic increase in cases of melanoma. The Mayo Clinic estimates that cases in women have increased 800%, while cases in men have increased 400%. The same study linked this increase, at least in part, to tanning beds: denoting that frequent tanning bed use increases melanoma risk by 74%. This practice is much more likely to be popular with young women and a major reason for the difference between male and female populations. However, ultraviolet light itself is a very major risk factor: the largest source of which is the sun. Much of this increase may also be caused by more effective diagnoses practices, as well as the possibility of diagnosing non-cancerous lesions as melanoma.
Having a family history of melanoma, light complexions, moles, immune system suppression and age have all been attributed as factors in melanoma risk (Source: American Cancer Association). Sunburns during adolescents are also seen as a major risk factor. Melanoma is a disease which often takes 20 years to manifest, making that sunburn you received at 10 years old really make a difference, when you’re 30. Avoiding peak hours of summer sun and using broad-spectrum sunscreen – the type that blocks both UVA and UBA light – can greatly reduce your chances of melanoma. However, exposure to the sun in regular doses, without burning or heavy tanning, should not be avoided. As a major source of vitamin D, the sun is still and integral part of life. It is over-exposure that is harmful.
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