While Covid has received global attention due to its high death count and infection rates, it’s still only one of the many epidemics of infectious diseases currently ongoing around the world. Many of them fly under the radar due to being limited to small populations or certain regions of the world, even if some – like the decades-long HIV pandemic – have so far killed many more people than Covid.
10. Salmonella Typhimurium
Salmonella bacteria are usually found in poultry animals like pigs and cattle, as well as some common pets like dogs, cats, and birds. The disease, Salmonellosis, could be contracted by eating infected food products like eggs, meat, and milk, though the effects are relatively mild and go away on their own within a few days.
Currently, we may be in the middle of an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium – one of the two types of Salmonella most likely to infect humans. More than 151 cases have been reported from countries like France, Belgium, Ireland, United States, Norway, and many others. No one has died from the disease, and the outbreak has overwhelmingly affected kids.
This current wave could be directly linked to products by an Italian chocolate brand called Kinder. So far, they’ve been distributed to over 113 countries, so we don’t yet know the full extent of the outbreak.
Polio was once a serious problem for countries around the world. While wild poliovirus is only found in two countries – Afghanistan and Pakistan – over the years, the disease has shown up in countries around the world. While countries like the United States and UK regularly inoculate their populations against the virus, it’s a problem in places with low vaccination rates, particularly in Africa.
For up to 90% of the people infected with the virus, the symptoms are mild. The other 10%, however, suffer from permanent paralysis, which could even lead to death when their respiratory system gets immobilized.
Currently, many Polio outbreaks are ongoing in Yemen and a few African countries. In some places – like Afghanistan – vaccination efforts are hindered by armed conflict. There is currently no known cure for the disease, though mass inoculation drives have vastly reduced the global fatality rate over the years.
Measles is a dangerous, highly-contagious disease that can be fatal. For the survivors, long-term issues could include partial or complete blindness, brain damage, and hearing loss. It’s vaccine-preventable, which has massively improved the survival rate over the years.
In the past few months, though, health professionals have reported an uptick in the number of cases worldwide. According to WHO and UNICEF, there was a 79% jump in the number of measles cases in the first two months of 2022. As of April 2022, 21 large outbreaks had been reported globally, mostly in the African and east Mediterranean regions.
Many experts worry that this could be the beginning of a global epidemic. As countries around the world divert their mass immunization efforts towards Covid, there’s now a much higher risk of infection from vaccine-preventable diseases like measles.
Monkeypox is a type of orthopoxvirus transmitted to humans through contact with infected animals like monkeys and rodents. Severe cases have been usually limited to countries in west and central Africa, particularly the Congo Basin in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While not as severe as smallpox – which was declared eradicated in 1980 – some recent monkeypox outbreaks have seen a fatality rate of around 3 – 6%, making it one of the deadliest active diseases right now.
Since May, 2022, there has been a worrying rise in cases outside the African regions. As of September 20, 2022, more than 19,800 cases have been reported from multiple countries. While a lot of popular coverage around the disease has been focussed around sexual transmission, monkeypox could also spread by contact with infected objects, like clothes or towels.
6. Yellow Fever
The current outbreak of yellow fever in Africa was first reported in Nigeria in November, 2020. Since then, cases have been reported from countries in east, west and central Africa, including Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, and Nigeria, among many others.
Yellow fever is a vaccine-preventable disease transmitted by mosquito bites. While symptoms are usually not severe and include headache, loss of appetite, and nausea, the infection could spread to the liver and kidneys, causing fever, bleeding from the mouth, nose, or eyes, and even death.
While the majority of cases are being reported from Nigeria and Ghana, the disease has been difficult to confirm in some regions due to a lack of proper medical surveillance.
While SARS-CoV-2 – commonly known as Covid-19 – has been devastating for the world, it’s not the only currently-active coronavirus strain. Cases of MERS-Cov – or the Middle East respiratory syndrome – have been reported since 2012, mostly in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern countries. So far, the disease has infected over 2,500 people and killed more than 800.
MERS-Cov is a dangerous, highly-infectious acute respiratory disease, much like Covid-19. though it has largely stayed limited to Saudi Arabia and nearby regions. The true origins of the virus are still a mystery, though a few animals – like camels and bats – have been identified as potential carriers.
Cholera is one of the oldest known viral infections, with some accounts of the disease dating as far back as the 5th century BC. Between 1817 and 1923, six major, devastating outbreaks were reported around the world, though the current, seventh outbreak is by far its deadliest phase. Beginning in Indonesia in 1961, the disease currently infects about 3-5 million people every year.
Cholera is caused by an infection by the Vibrio cholerae bacteria. While most infections aren’t serious, it could lead to more severe complications and even death in certain cases. Thankfully, the pandemic’s worst days are long over, though cholera is still far from being eradicated. Recent outbreaks have been reported from countries across Asia and Africa, and the worst-affected places are Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Somalia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Philippines.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver often caused by a variety of infectious viruses, commonly categorized as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and so on. It’s a serious disease, as some types of hepatitis could lead to other diseases like cancer, and even death.
Every year, more than a million people lose their lives to hepatitis and related complications, making it deadlier and more widespread than most viral diseases we know of. While that could already be categorized as an ongoing global pandemic, there have also been multiple, localized outbreaks in places around the world. The current wave – spread over 12 countries including Denmark, Israel, Netherlands, Italy, Romania, Belgium, and others – has been particularly deadly for children under the age of five.
The Ebola virus is one of the deadliest pathogens we know of, with fatality rates reaching as high as 90% in some outbreaks. It’s also highly-infectious, and it usually spreads by contact with the bodily fluids of someone already infected by it.
There is no known cure for ebola, and we’re not even sure how it spreads. Some scientists think that the virus is transmitted from bats first, before moving to other animals – like chimpanzees – and eventually human hosts.
The disease was first discovered in central Africa back in 1976, and since then, there have been many outbreaks spread across a large region in central Africa, particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo. The current outbreak – beginning in April, 2022 – is the sixth ebola outbreak in the country since 2018.
The HIV pandemic is one of the longest-running pandemics in history, having infected over 79.3 million people since it was first discovered in the 1980s. More than 40 million people have died of the disease since then, and even today, millions of people around the world are infected by it. While it’s spread over almost every part of the world, the African continent has emerged as the most vulnerable region.
Currently, there’s no cure for HIV, though it could be controlled with the help of certain medical procedures and treatments. The disease is usually transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected person, though it could also spread through infected needles and other drug-injection equipment.