Many diseases that were thought to be extinct have begun to reappear in different parts of the world, and even ‘ancient diseases’ such as leprosy can still be found in the US. Although most are caused by poverty, poor sanitation, or are transferred from animals, other diseases such as rickets have reappeared as a result of parent’s attempts to protect their children from sun exposure. While the majority of the US population is lining up to get the latest vaccine or flu shot to protect themselves from this year’s ‘superbug’, many people in poor countries are still battling with conditions such as rickets and bubonic plague. Takes a look at four diseases that are still lurking in various parts of the planet, including in the US.
Rickets is a condition that causes softening of the bones and can lead to increased risk of fracturing and bone deformities. It is most common in the developing world and is caused by a lack of vitamin D; however, vitamin D deficiency is common even in the US, and cases of rickets are popping up repeatedly. The main source of vitamin D comes from periods of sun exposure, and is vital to human health as it enables to body to absorb and utilize essential minerals such as calcium. While it can be obtained through certain foods, vitamin D is usually only available in trace amounts and the body can produce an adequate supply as long as a person spends time each day in direct sunlight. Otherwise vitamin D supplementation is required to obtain adequate amounts to keep healthy.
Physicians in the UK have seen an alarming increase in the amount of children diagnosed with rickets, and more than 20% of children tested for bone problems at Southampton General Hospital in England were found to display signs of the crippling disease. When questioned, the parents of the children all admitted to regularly covering their children with factor 50 sunblock whenever they went out of the house, and many children did not get adequate exposure to sunlight due to excessive time spent on indoor activities such as video games. Most parents claimed they were following the advice of sunblock manufacturers who routinely advise parents to cover newborn babies in the highest level of sunblock available. Not only has this led to many children suffering painful joint and bone problems, sunblock is packed with other harmful toxins such as oxybenzone which has been linked to hormone disruption and skin cancer. Safer alternatives to sunblock for protection against sunburn include coconut oil, sesame oil, aloe Vera, and consuming foods such as tomatoes, watermelon and grapefruit which contain lycopene, a natural UV deterrent.
Bubonic plague, better known as the Black Death, devastated Europe in the 14th century and killed an estimated 25 million people. It can be contracted from a flea bite and causes extremely swollen lymph nodes, high fever, rotting of the skin, coma, and death. Nowadays it is easily treated conventionally with a combination of antibiotics and is considered to be extinct in the developed world, but poorer countries such as Madagascar are facing an epidemic as the disease is still spreading throughout the population.
Last year Madagascar reported 256 cases of bubonic plague which led to 60 deaths, and The Red Cross is working with local health institutions to try and halt the spread of the disease. It is believed to have spread due to the infestation of flea-ridden rats that are attracted to horrific sanitary conditions in local prisons, and Red Cross member Evaristo Oliviera stated that “A prison is not a sealed place, first of all the staff themselves who work in the prison are at risk, and they go home at the end of the day, already perhaps being a vector of the disease.” The first case of bubonic plague in more than 30 years was reported in Kyrgyzstan earlier this year after a 15 year-old cattle herder died after being bitten by a flea carrying the disease, and more than 400 cases were reported all over the world in 2012.
One of the most feared diseases known to man, leprosy is still alive and well and The Health Resources and Services Administartion claims that there are an estimated 6,500 people afflicted with the disease in the US alone. Leprosy is also known as Hansen’s disease, and contrary to popular belief does not cause limbs to fall off but instead causes them to shrink and leaves sufferers permanently deformed and vulnerable to infections. It is caused by two types of bacteria Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium lepromatosis, and can lay dormant in the human body for up to 20 years.
A study performed last year and published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that armadillos are the only mammals besides humans that are able to carry the disease, and around 40 – 60 cases of leprosy in the US last year were linked to humans coming into contact with armadillos. Conventional treatment for leprosy consists of large doses of bactericidal antibiotics, and treatment can last up to a year. In poor countries where antibiotics are not available, infected persons are quarantined in leper colonies, and there are an estimated 1000 leper colonies in India alone.
The first documented case of gout was in Egypt around 2,600BC, and the disease has accompanied mankind right up to present day. Known as ‘the disease of kings’, gout causes painful arthritis that is usually concentrated to the big toe, and is the result of too much uric acid in the blood due to kidney malfunction. It is most common in men over 40, people with kidney problems, those with an alcohol disorder, and people with a family history of the disease. It has also become more common in modern day due to our diets that consist of high meat consumption as well as excess consumption of fructose and other sugars. It is thought to affect around 1.4% of the adult population of developed countries, and around 125 cases have been found to be caused by poor diet.
Conventional treatment for gout involves NSAIDS to reduce pain and inflammation of the affected joints and medications such as allopurinol are prescribed to correct uric acid imbalance within the body. The most effective method of treatment however, is through correct diet and regular exercise, and those affected with gout are advised to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and drink at least one and a half liters of water per day. A study of 12 patients with gout found that consuming half a pound of fresh cherries or cherry juice every day had the power to eliminate gout entirely, and a herb known as Cynara scolymus, or Globe artichoke has been found to be an effective natural cure for gout.
Scurvy was most prominent during the early 19th century when sailors and arctic explorers began falling ill and even dying after consuming a diet of only cured meats and grains while at sea. Scurvy is caused by a lack of vitamin C and leads to the body being unable to produce a protein known as collagen which is found in skin, bone, cartilage, and blood vessels. Symptoms include muscle and joint pain, chronic fatigue, red eruptions on the skin, and the most well-known symptom of bleeding and swollen gums. Due to improved diet and an understanding of what causes scurvy, it has become an extremely rare disease which only affects those who are malnourished due to poverty or an unhealthy lifestyle. In 2012 an 8-year old boy from Wales, UK, died from scurvy as a result of extreme neglect by his parents, and both the UK and US have seen a rise in the number of children diagnosed with scurvy in recent years due to many consuming a diet consisting of only of processed foods and readymade microwave meals. Scurvy is easily cured by increasing the amount of vitamin C in the diet through consumption of foods such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits, tomatoes, broccoli and cabbage.
The reappearance of several diseases that were eliminated centuries ago is of great concern, and individuals in less-developed countries as well as those in the West require better education on the alternative treatment methods that can effectively cure these ailments. Garlic is a powerful natural antibiotic that can fight against diseases such as bubonic plague, and alkalizing substances such as baking soda and apple cider vinegar can dissolve the uric acid crystals that cause gout. Other diseases have returned as a result of irresponsible advice from establishments that claim to act in the best interests of our health and wellbeing. Alternative medicine can provide cures to every disease known to man, and the aforementioned diseases can all be treated using natural, nontoxic methods that will not do further damage to the body.
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