Two years ago, my co-worker traveled to Colombia. She was so excited to go and talked about it for weeks. Her plans entailed hiking on a hidden track through the jungle, touring the countryside and having amazing food. The day she was due to come back to work from her vacation, she was a no show. I was informed that she had contracted dengue while in Colombia and was out sick all week. My head was racing with questions: What? How was that even possible? What EXACTLY was dengue? I knew absolutely nothing about this disease, but it sounded worse than anything I could possibly imagine.
My research informed me that dengue is a mosquito borne infection that causes a severe flu-like illness and can potentially lead to deadly complication called dengue hemorrhagic fever. Mosquitoes became a huge concern for me especially because of my impending trip to Dominican Republic. Dengue was on a rise that year and I was prepared to fight that battle with bug repellant. The entire vacation I reeked of bug repellent, but I didn’t get one mosquito bite. Contracting dengue was my biggest fear and it still is. Dengue is officially on my radar!
The seven most common Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are ascariasis, hookworm, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schstosomiasis, trachoma and trichuriasis. I thought dengue sounded scary, but the top seven sounded worse. There are people that are oblivious of NTDs’ existence. Individuals living in the developed world are not educated about any the diseases because they are not prevalent. These diseases kill 500,000 of the world’s poorest people annually. They are rampant in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, all which encompass 90% of the total burden of disease. NTDs stigmatize, disable and inhibit individuals from being able to care for themselves and their families.
These bacterial and parasitic infections are “neglected” because they have been in existence for so long and it’s only in the last few decades that NTDs have had recognition from the global health sphere. NTD’s have been included in MDG’s goal 6, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Nevertheless they have not received funding on the scale such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Malaria is the only NTD that receives funding on that scale. The rest remain underfunded even though treatment is extremely cost-effective. Integrated treatment efforts can significantly reduce the morbidity, blindness and skin disease caused by NTDs.
With the increased cases of dengue due to climate change, it might not be much longer before the other NTD’s find their way to developed world. There is constant talk about HIV/AIDS; we are bombarded with information in the media. There aren’t any commercials on TV informing people of the severity of dengue, guinea worm disease and onchocerciasis. Some articles state “neglected” should be taken away from the tropical disease name, but it needs to stay put. Most people are still oblivious of the incapacitating diseases that promote poverty and keep those suffering from them in a poverty trap.