Wednesday, 27 Sep 2023

The Victorian diseases eradicated in UK but still deadly around the world – MAP

CDC explains how tuberculosis can be transmitted

Tuberculosis recently surpassed coronavirus as the world’s most deadly airborne disease. A total of 1.6 million people died from it in 2021. 

In the UK, the infection has been all but wiped out. In 2013, there were 7,290 cases in England, the second-highest rate of all Western European countries. In 2015, the Government launched an £11.5million strategy to wipe it out, and last year there were just over 2,000 admissions for TB.

Similar success stories can be told of a range of “Victorian Diseases”, such as scarlet fever, measles and cholera. Although they never truly go away – as evidenced by occasional outbreaks – improvements in science, education, the cleanliness of drinking water and nutrition mean they are unlikely to ever make a real comeback in the UK.

This isn’t the case for a great many developing countries worldwide. Immunisation programs, crucial to bringing down transmission rates, are often far behind those of wealthier Western peers.

To this is added the unexpected post-pandemic plunge in vaccine uptake, as the line between healthy scepticism and conspiracy becomes blurred. Where are these Dickensian holdouts still causing problems?


Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection “spread through inhaling tiny droplets from the coughs or sneezes of an infected person”, according to the NHS.

A persistent cough for over three weeks is a tell-tale sign, as it attacks the lungs. It can be treated with antibiotics but can lead to grave health consequences if left unchecked.

Case numbers in England have fallen by 71 percent over the past decade. Globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recorded numbers falling from 7.1 million pre-pandemic in 2019, to 6.4 million in 2021. 

A total of 1.6 million people are known to have died from it that year, making TB the 13th leading cause of death.

In 2021, eight countries accounted for more than two-thirds of the global caseload: India (28 percent), Indonesia (9.2 percent), China (7.4 percent), the Philippines (seven percent), Pakistan (5.8 percent), Nigeria (4.4 percent), Bangladesh (3.6 percent) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2.9 percent).


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Measles is a highly contagious, serious airborne disease most often found in children. It usually starts with cold-like symptoms, followed by a rash a few days later.

Before the introduction of the MMR vaccine in 1963 periodic epidemics killed an estimated 2.6 million people each year worldwide. In 2021, there were nine million cases and 128,000 deaths – with 22 countries experiencing outbreaks.

The largest share by far occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the WHO recorded 54,471 infections. This was followed by Nigeria (10,649) and Pakistan (10,399).

NHS England admitted just 15 people with measles symptoms in the year to March 2022. 

In 2021, about 81 percent of all children in the world received one MMR shot by their first birthday – the lowest proportion since 2008.

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In February, the WHO cautioned a surge in cholera cases was putting a billion people in 43 countries at risk.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by the ingestion of bacterially infected food or water. Most cases can be treated with an oral rehydration solution – if left untreated, it can kill within hours.

Researchers estimate that there are 1.3 to four million cholera cases each year, causing between 21,000 and 143,000 deaths. The last major flare-up of the disease was in 2017.

The five countries reporting the greatest number of new cholera cases, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, are Afghanistan (32, 060), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (11, 551), Mozambique (6, 959), Syria (5,125) and Malawi (4,301).


In 1988, when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched, polio was present in over 125 countries and paralyzed about 1,000 children per day, according to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Poliovirus infections have plummeted by over 99 percent since then, from an estimated 350,000 cases to just six in 2021.

Aidan O’Leary, in charge of polio eradication at the WHO said earlier this year: “2023 is the target date to interrupt all remaining polio transmission globally. And we have a very real shot at success. 

“In the two remaining countries, which remain endemic to wild polio virus –  Pakistan and Afghanistan – virus transmission is more geographically restricted than ever before.”

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