by M. Nasir Jawed
World’s future is threatened by certain infectious diseases that were responsible for 90% of all deaths in 1998, according to a report published by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
50% of deaths among children or young adults occur due to a very few handful diseases like Aids, tuberculosis (TB), measles, malaria, diarrheal diseases such as dysentery and cholera, and acute respiratory infections such as pneumonia.
Economic development, particularly in poorer countries, was being hamstrung by the loss of children and young workers to these diseases, said the WHO.
The report warned that the world has dangerously overestimated its ability to control dangerous bacteria and viruses such as these.
With bacteria gaining extra resistance to treatments such as antibiotics, and world travel on the increase, greater investment is needed to halt their spread.
Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, WHO director-general said: “The World Health Organisation is issuing a wake-up to the world’s governments, decision-makers and the private sector to take action against infectious diseases before it is too late.
“Infectious diseases are causing half of all deaths among families and young labourers, farmers, supervisors and shop owners around the world.
“How can anyone reach their economic potential with this burden?”
Although these diseases are major killers in developing countries, evidence of the resurgence of bacteria and viruses is emerging even in the UK.
Top Deadly Diseases of the Developing World
Disease Annual Mortality Rate Annual Infection Rate
Lower respiratory infections 4 million —-
HIV/AIDS 3 million 39.4 million
Malaria 1-5 million 300–515 million
Diarrhea 2.2 million 4 billion
Tuberculosis 2 million 8 million
Measles 530,000 30 million
Whooping Cough 200,000–300,000 20-40 million
Tetanus 214,000 500,000
Meningitis 174,000 1 million +
Syphilis 157,000 12.2 million1
1. The HIV/AIDS and syphilis infection rate figures are worldwide totals of people infected with the diseases.
Source: Reuters and World Health Organizations. See also Leading Causes of Mortality Throughout the World, p. 667.