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Health

8 Deadly Diseases That We Need To Eliminate From The Planet

Flickr: Dave Campbell

Today, there are diseases killing people around the world that you might think do not matter, affect people, or were wiped out decades ago. But diseases like Cholera, and Polio are responsible for millions of deaths each year. Solutions are often as simple as salt tablets or a cost-effective vaccine. Other diseases such as Ebola or Malaria are in the media all the time, but what exactly are they and what will it take to eradicate such diseases? I don’t want to completely ruin your breakfast, lunch or dinner, but these diseases are gross, deadly, and need to end by 2030.

1. Polio

Closer than ever to a polio-free Nigeria-b2.jpgImage: Gavi/Adrian Brooks

How many people are sick? Polio affects people in only 2 countries on the planet: Afghanistan and Pakistan (though it is still officially present in Nigeria, the nation is over a year since it's last wild polio case). Only 416 cases were reported in 2013. Polio needs to be eradicated because while polio still exists on the planet, 200,000 can potentially be infected with the virus poliomyelitis, which can cause paralysis and affects children under the age of five primarily. What will it take to wipe out polio? Promoting awareness that polio can be ended with vaccinations, good hygiene and improved sanitation.

2. Malaria

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There’s a therapy to prevent death from malaria (actually one of the three people to just won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was recognized for their work on Malaria as my colleague Nicki points out here). It’s made from artemisinin and it has the potential to help prevent the 1 million deaths that occur each year from malaria. 300-600 million people each year get sick from malaria caused by a parasite from mosquitoes.

What will it take to wipe out malaria? Preventing malaria can be as cost effective as providing bed-nets to families in areas with high risk of malaria, in addition to preventative medicines. Also investing in clean water and sanitation can stop breeding grounds for mosquitoes and reduce the amount of stagnant water that mosquitos just love.

3. HIV/AIDS

8 deadly diseases aids virus .jpgImage: Flickr: NIAID

First, HIV vs. AIDS breakdown. HIV is a virus, the human immunodeficiency virus to be exact. HIV attacks the healthy cells in the human immune system which can lead to AIDS. Currently, 37 million people worldwide have HIV. And 740,000 of those people are children receiving antiretroviral treatment so HIV does not grow and attack more healthy cells.  AIDS is the disease a person with HIV lives with. This means that HIV has damaged and taken over healthy cells in the body causing Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is a little more difficult to measure the number of people with AIDS because only 51 percent of people with HIV know the status of the virus in their body. That’s why HIV testing, and monitoring positive HIV results is so important to end deaths worldwide from HIV/AIDS.

4. Diabetes

8 deadly diseases diabetes.jpgImage: Flickr: Victor

Diabetes used to be a disease primarily seen in developed countries, but as developing countries economies expand, more people in developing countries have the ability to purchase processed and packaged food, and diabetes is rising in developing countries. Today, 80 percent of diabetes deaths occur in low and middle income countries.

What is diabetes? First, there’s two types: type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, it happens when the pancreas stops producing insulin which regulates levels of blood sugar. Type 1 diabetes is only 5-10 percent of diabetes cases, and causes are  Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90-95 percent and is caused essentially by overworking the pancreas function of regulating glucose (blood sugar.)

Obesity is directly related to type 2 diabetes and it can be prevented. Increasing exercise and decreasing consumption of foods with high trans-fat lots of sugars can combat diabetes and save 90 percent of the estimated 371 million people living with diabetes.

5. Ebola

8 deadly diseases to wipe out by 2030-b1.jpgImage: Flickr: clement127

I read the book “the Hot Zone,” which is about finding the root cause of Ebola several years ago. It had something to do with an infection from bat poop from what I recall. I’ve since learned that the spread of Ebola was more nuanced than one person coming into contact with bat poop in Kenya and humans don’t turn into bleeding zombies. Personally, I was drawn to the book because Ebola seemed like an exotic and dangerous disease. Maybe that’s why the media loves to use scare tactics when talking about the Ebola virus. But, the Ebola virus is in reality a crazy disease that affected more people during the outbreak in 2014 than in all the rest of history.

The good news?—No new cases of Ebola has been reported in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Senegal this October since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa killed 11,000 in the last year.

6. Cholera

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Cholera aka the intestinal virus Vibrio cholerae plagues 1.4 to 4 million people each year. This disease is seriously deadly. If untreated Cholera can kill humans within a matter of hours. How? Dehydration. Do you know what else that means? The solution to keep people alive when they are under attack from the cholera virus is as simple as a batch of rehydration salt tablets. Clean water and sanitation can also put an end to this disease by 2030, as contaminated water is the primary method of transport for the cholera virus. In addition, ending open defecation is essential to ridding the world of Cholera because the virus can actually live in poop for up to ten days. Like I said…gross and deadly and needs to end.  

7. Trachoma

8 deadly diseases trachoma.jpgImage: Flickr: US Navy

Trachoma is a common eye infection that occurs in crowded areas with a lot of flies and shortages of clean water available. Trachoma often occurs in infancy and childhood and can cause eyelids to become irritated, swell and turn inside out. Untreated, this disease leads to blindness by age 30 or 40 and causes slow and painful suffering. Trachoma falls into the category of “neglected tropical diseases,” according to WHO, which I hope by 2030 no longer exists. Immunization, access to clean water and sanitation along with education on hand washing can prevent diseases like Trachoma and many other “neglected tropical diseases.”

8. Tuberculosis

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Have you seen the movie Moulin Rouge? Nicole Kidman plays a woman in a theater who gets sick, and is coughing up blood throughout the movie. There’s a bad guy in the movie who is trying to steal Kidman’s character, the beautiful and delicate Satine, from her true love. But the real villain in the film is Tuberculosis. Back in the day Tuberculosis was known as consumption, and I would imagine the name had something to do with the fact that Tuberculosis killed an estimated one billion people during the 19th century. 40 percent of deaths from Tuberculosis during the industrial period were in “working-class” neighborhoods in cities. Cramped, crowded areas with people living in poverty drove Tuberculosis rates to nearly 100 percent in some cities. How? Because the disease is an airborne pathogen, which means it can be transported from one person to another just by sneezing or breathing. Yikes!

Today, tuberculosis (TB) is still responsible for between two to three million deaths a year and the cost of treatment is expensive. Treatment for TB can cost between $2,000 to $250,000 (USD) per patient, according to WHO.  So how can TB be wiped off the face of the earth? 79 percent of people with TB do not have access to the proper treatment. Investing in affordability and access to treatment across the globe can drastically reduce the continuous spread of TB.


Halloween is coming up soon and although I wasn’t trying to scare you with these deadly diseases, hopefully this article instead provides inspiration to take action and help eliminate these eight deadly diseases from the planet.

You can to go TAKE ACTION NOW and help end diseases like Ebola once and for all.