18 October 2010
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India
Two "neglected diseases" – dengue and cysticercosis – are costing India nearly $45 million between them every year.
According to WHO’s firstever report on neglected diseases, these diseases kill an estimated 534,000 people each year.
India also has a huge disease burden of rabies, caused by dog bites. In India, 20,000 rabies deaths (that is about 2/100,000 population) are estimated to occur annually. Asia and Africa account for the vast majority of rabies fatalities. In Asia, 31,000 deaths are estimated to occur annually (1.2/100,000 population).
WHO identified 17 such diseases present in 149 countries and found that more than onethird of the 2.7 billion people living on less than $2 a day were affected.
WHO said the number of cases of dengue, which recently caused havoc in India, saw a jump of 18% in 2007 compared with 2006 in southeast Asia. Dr Margaret Chan, director general of WHO, said, "Though medically diverse, neglected tropical diseases form a group because all are strongly associated with poverty, all flourish in impoverished environments."
She added, "Most are ancient diseases that have plagued humanity for centuries. Today, though neglected tropical diseases impair the lives of an estimated 1 billion people, they are largely hidden, concentrated in remote rural areas or urban slums. They are also largely silent, as the people affected or at risk have little political voice."
Chan said neglected tropical diseases have traditionally ranked low on national and international health agendas.
According to WHO, close companions of poverty, these diseases also anchor large populations in poverty. Onchocerciasis and trachoma cause blindness. Leprosy and lymphatic filariasis deform in ways that hinder economic productivity. Without post-exposure prophylaxis, rabies causes acute encephalitis and is always fatal. Leishmaniasis leaves permanent scars and is rapidly fatal if untreated.
Dengue has emerged as a fast spreading vector-borne disease affecting mostly poor, urban populations. It is also the leading cause of hospital admissions in several countries. "The consequences are costly for societies and for healthcare," Chan said.
- WHO puts economic burden of vector-borne dengue at $29.3 million
- Dengue cases saw an 18% jump in Southeast Asia in 2007
- Cysticercosis is an infectious disease caused by the pork tapeworm Taenia solium
- Societal monetary cost of cysticercosis is estimated to be $15.27 million
- These diseases kill an estimated 5,34,000 people each year
- Another big killer in India is rabies, leaving 20,000 dead every year