Diseases, or the functional disorders of bodily functions, have had an eventful history since prehistoric times. Gradually, as our understanding of epidemics and illnesses became more intelligible, we started looking for ways to cure them. For many such illnesses, we have succeeded too. It was in the 1800s that germ theory originated in laboratory research. With the industrial revolution, cities had been turning into havens for diseases like typhoid, cholera, tuberculosis, smallpox, among others.
Since then, we have made huge strides in the field of medicine. So much so that we have effectively eradicated or eliminated many diseases off the face of the earth. When a disease stops circulating in a region, it’s considered eliminated from that region. Polio, for example, was eliminated from the United States by 1979 after widespread vaccination efforts. When it is wiped off entirely on a global level, it is known to be eradicated. Imagine if it were possible to buy health insurance in those days and cover vaccinations under the policy, how much sooner would it have reached the masses!
Let’s have a look at some diseases that fall under either category – eradicated or eliminated diseases.
- Smallpox: Smallpox was an infectious disease transmitted from person to person via infective droplets during close contact, caused by the variola virus. Its primary symptom included rashes and high fever. The last ever reported case of wild smallpox was in Somalia in 1977. It has been effectively eradicated due to the development and distribution of the smallpox vaccine. The elimination effort had entailed a lot of surveillance and ring vaccination. Ring vaccination refers to the tracking down of anyone possibly exposed to an infection and vaccinating them to prevent the disease from spreading further. Today, it has been almost 40 years since the World Health Organisation declared that smallpox had been eradicated, following a global immunization campaign. The hope is that such immunizations efforts can be replicated for other infectious diseases. If they are covered under health insurance, it could help expedite the process and we could implore the masses to buy health plans.
- Guinea Worm: This disease hasn’t been eradicated in the acute sense of the term – but numbers suggest that it is on its way to achieving that status. In 2017, there were only 20 villages with cases of Guinea worm disease in two countries in Africa, compared to 23,735 villages in 21 countries on two continents in 19911. This disease is caused by a parasite called dracunculiasis which spreads via dirty drinking water, and destroys muscles and tissues around a knee or foot. It is extremely painful and can be permanently debilitating, especially in children. The Carter Center International Task Force for Disease Eradication has declared six additional diseases as potentially eradicable: lymphatic filariasis (Elephantiasis), polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and pork tapeworm
- Polio: This disease leaves the afflicted with permanent physical disabilities, as the virus spreads along the nerve fibres in the spinal cord. Globally, cases of polio have gone down by 99% since 1988, from around 35,000 to 33 reported cases in 2018. WHO and its partners under the Global Polio Eradication Initiative tackled the disease head-on and the immunization drive was also successful in India, where not a single case has been reported since 2011. India constituted over 60% of all global polio cases as recently as 2009. in 2014, India was officially declared polio-free, along with the rest of the South-East Asia Region.
- Measles: Measles is also highly infectious like smallpox, and can have grave repercussions like diarrhoea, serious respiratory infections and encephalitis, weakening of the immune system and even blindness. The vaccine has a big role to play in its elimination in most countries, resulting in a drop of 75% in cases across the globe since 2000. While it is still rampant in Africa and parts of Asia, WHO aims to eradicate measles too.
- Mumps: Mumps is another contagious disease that is marked by the swelling of the salivary glands and jaw. The disease can cause complications ranging from encephalitis or meningitis to the swelling of the ovaries or breasts and deafness. The incidences have gone down, although much remains to be done – in India outbreaks and sporadic cases are reported throughout the year and from across the country. Since it is a vaccine-preventable disease, elimination and eradication is a strong possibility.
One thing is clear from all these examples: having access to important and timely treatment facilities and medicines can be life-changing. This reinforces why you should buy health insurance which allows you access to cashless hospitalization, regular check-ups and vaccinations, which is why we recommend you buy an insurance policy on priority. Don’t think twice before getting coverage for yourself and your family against medical exigencies. Bajaj Allianz General Insurance offers plans that provide health insurance online, for a host of medical-related issues and expenses. The insurance plans, available on Bajaj Finserv MARKETS will cover the pre and post hospitalization expenses for 60 and 90 days respectively. Also read about pre existing disease in health insurance.
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