13 New Diseases

Edited by Kathy McGraw, Maria Quinney

The ease of global travel combined with climate change has caused the spread of illnesses from one region of the world to others, particularly from less developed areas to the developed world. While these diseases aren't exactly new, as in never before discovered, they are considered to be an emerging threat to human health and safety worldwide. From Ebola to Zika, this article examines the new illnesses and their symptoms.

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    Leishmaniasis. Leishmaniasis is a parasitic infection transmitted by the bite of the phlebotomine sand fly. The sand flies become infected with Leishmania parasites, and then transmit the parasites to a new host through their bite. The CDC classifies this disease as a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) because it affects over a billion people every year and affects mostly the poorest areas of the world. The two most common forms of this disease are:
    1. Cutaneous Leishmaniasis. An infection of the skin characterized by sores which develop within weeks or months of being bitten by an infected sand fly. The sores may start out as small papules or nodules and morph into ulcers with a raised edge and a crater in the center. This is the most common form of the disease.
    2. Visceral Leishmaniasis. In this form, the disease affects certain internal organs, most commonly the spleen, liver, and bone marrow. It develops within months of being bitten by an infected sand fly and may be life-threatening. Symptoms of this form of the disease include fever, weight loss, and swelling of the spleen and liver.
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    Rift Valley Fever (RVF). RVF is a disease characterized by a high fever which is found in cattle and can be transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. It is typically contained to regions on the southern and eastern parts of Africa, but increased travel has brought the disease to other parts of the world as well. Luckily, most people who become infected with RVF either show no symptoms or have a mild flu-like illness with fever, malaise, and body aches. They usually recover in a few days with no long-term ill-effects. However, some people, about 8 to 10 percent, according to the CDC, get a more severe, life-threatening form of the disease.
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    Oropouche virus (OROV). OROV is an arbovirus that causes fever, loss of appetite, headaches, and vomiting. It is transmitted by Culex mosquitos, which have a wider range than the Aedes mosquitos, which transmit Zika virus, which is concerning to the CDC. It mostly causes a mild illness, but complications include meningitis and encephalitis.
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    Mayaro virus (MAYV). Mayaro virus is another disease that is spread by mosquitos, in this case, a species of Aedes mosquito, from the same genus that transmits Zika. It causes a flu-like illness with high fever, and it has been becoming more common since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, it's becoming more common in the developing world.
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  5. 5
    Elizabethkingia. Elizabethkingia is a bacteria found in the soil, rivers, and reservoirs, and is worldwide. It rarely causes illness, but when it does, it is usually in people with compromised immune systems. In these folks, it tends to cause meningitis and respiratory infections. There was an outbreak of this disease in the Midwest in 2016, and there were a few deaths as a result.
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  6. 6
    Zika. Zika is a virus that is transmitted by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. Once it has been transmitted to a human, it can be spread from the mother to her fetus and via sexual intercourse. Fortunately, most people with Zika either have no symptoms or very mild ones. Symptoms include fever, rash, headache, and joint pain. The main reason why Zika is a problem is that of the risks it poses to babies of infected mothers; they are at a higher risk of developing microcephaly and other brain defects.
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  7. 7
    Chagas. Chagas is found only in the Americas and is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which is transmitted by insect bites. Like Leishmaniasis, the CDC considers it a Neglected Parasitic Infection. Unlike some of the other diseases in this list, Chagas can become a lifelong condition if it is not treated. In has two phases: an acute phase and a chronic phase. In the acute phase, the illness may be asymptomatic, but some people may develop a fever and swelling at the site of the insect bite. Parasites are detectable in their blood during this period. After the acute phase, the disease enters the chronic indeterminate stage, where they might have no symptoms, and may never develop any. However, about 20 to 30 percent of people with the illness will go on to develop sometimes life-threatening issues. Some of these include heart rhythm abnormalities, a dilated heart that has trouble pumping, or a dilated colon and esophagus.
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  8. 8
    West Nile Virus (WNV). WNV is a virus that is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito of the Culex genus. In recent years, it has become more prevalent in North America because of increased travel and climate change. Fortunately, the virus produces either mi#ld symptoms or no symptoms in the infected individual. It becomes a problem in people with compromised immune systems. Just one in five people with the illness develop mild symptoms, including fever, headache, body aches, vomiting, and diarrhea. In about one percent of people, there are severe symptoms, including neurologic problems such as seizures, disorientation, coma, and paralysis.
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  9. 9
    Chikungunya. It is spread by the Asian tiger mosquito, a species that used to be confined to Asia and Africa, but has since spread to the Caribbean and the United States. The Pan-American Health Organization reports that there have been 4,853 cases and seven deaths this year from the disease. There have been a few cases reported in the United States, but most of them have been travel-related. Unlike West Nile, most people who get infected with Chikungunya will have symptoms. They usually begin three to seven days after being bitten, and most commonly include fever, headache, and joint pain. Luckily, most people feel better in about a week, although some may feel joint pain for a few months.
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  10. 10
    Ebola. Ebola is probably the scariest disease on this list because it is frequently fatal and its symptoms are very distressing to think about. How Ebola is first transmitted from its natural hosts, nonhuman primates and fruit bats to humans are still a mystery.Once it finds its way into a human host, it is very infectious and is transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids and needles that have come into contact with an Ebola patient or someone who has died from the disease. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, and the tell-tale hemorrhages that mark the disease. While Ebola is still very deadly, and the risk of death is high, people can survive if their immune system is strong and if they get good supportive medical care.
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    Avian Flu (H7N9). A new version of the avian flu, called H7N9 to distinguish it from H1N1. The bug is currently confined to China and is transmitted to humans from infected poultry. While there have been cases of human to human spread, it doesn't appear to happen easily as of yet. That's good because it can't become a pandemic until that happens. H7N9 is a serious illness, causing pneumonia in over 80 percent of infected individuals.
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Categories : Health & Wellness

Recent edits by: Kathy McGraw

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