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April 28, 2005

Wrong M-word

If you read the New York Times, you probably believe that the greatest threat to world health (at least this week) is Marburg virus:

There is no vaccine or treatment, and victims can be dead in a week, usually from shock and plummeting blood pressure caused by fluid leaking out of blood vessels. Death rates have been 80 percent to 90 percent for Ebola, and 30 percent to 90 percent for Marburg.
People can catch the virus from animals – primates and possibly bats – and the disease can spread easily from person to person in those who come into contact with bodily fluids from patients. But little is known about the cause of human outbreaks or the animal reservoirs where the virus must live between them.

The obvious is worth stating here: while Marburg, Ebola and avian flu make news, more mundane diseases are laying waste to the developing world:

Even experts congregating to study the world's deadliest outbreak of the Marburg virus in Angola point out that its population is far more threatened by diseases which rarely kill in developed countries. One in four Angolan children do not live to their fifth birthday.
Tom Ksiazeck of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said sudden outbreaks of rare viruses like Marburg had less of an impact on Africa than the constant toll of diseases linked to poverty and sanitation.

I don't recall this recent report making the headlines:

An estimated 10.6 million children under five years old die each year from largely preventable diseases, including malaria, according to a study published in the March 26 issue of the Lancet... Jennifer Bryce from the World Health Organization and colleagues analyzed death registries, long-term research and improved models of child mortality. The researchers found that between 2000 and 2003, pneumonia accounted for 19% of childhood deaths; diarrhea accounted for 17% of deaths; 8% of deaths were from malaria; measles accounted for 4%; and HIV/AIDS and injuries each accounted for 3% of deaths. Premature births, sepsis and pneumonia or asphyxia were the most common causes of childhood mortality, accounting for 28%, 26% and 23% of under-five deaths, respectively.

In Africa, where some 4.4 million childhood deaths occur annually, a child dies of malaria every second—even though the disease can be prevented and treated.

Times readers may not know this.

Posted by Stephen at 11:20 PM in Health | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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