Gloomy outlook for the Pacific

Rapid strides in pharmacology and the medical sciences in the latter half of the twentieth century has seen the near total elimination of several diseases and ailments. Many of these had taken a heavy toll on vast human populations across broad swathes of the world’s many regions throughout history, many times wiping out entire villages and townships. A significant number of these life-threatening diseases were infectious, spread by bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms. The advent of antibiotics and their proliferation together with other preventative measures such as vaccination and the adoption of hygienic techniques, procedures and standards in the growing, manufacturing and selling of foods and beverages as well in healthcare have nearly eliminated epidemics caused by infectious diseases. The past several decades have celebrated media headlines every once in a while declaring the global elimination of diseases such as smallpox and polio, though the latter belligerently lingers in some remote areas of countries like Pakistan. The media coverage about diseases in the past little while has tended to shift from the once deadly communicable diseases of the past to non-communicable or lifestyle diseases. Today, though, medical news is mainly about diabetes, hypertension, cardiac disease and obesity among others, which have come to be labeled ‘lifestyle ailments.’ This is as it should be for these ailments are wreaking havoc on not only the medical infrastructure but also the productivity and therefore the economy of entire nations across the world. Of particular concern is the Pacific Islands region, where many of these lifestyle diseases have taken on gargantuan proportions.

One of the many deleterious effects of lifestyle diseases is compromised immunity and a less than ideal natural ability to fight infections and infectious disease. This is highly concerning because a slew of new infectious diseases as well as the old ones in new versions are rising at an alarming level in different pockets around the globe including in the islands region. The most significant among these are diseases borne by insects such as mosquitoes. In the past 15 months alone in the islands region, 21 documented outbreaks of diseases transmitted by mosquitoes have been reported in 12 countries and territories. Broken down, these work out to 15 outbreaks of dengue, three of chikungunya and three of Zika fever. All these diseases can prove devastating on any population. Previous outbreaks in other parts of the world have taken long to contain and cost millions of dollars.

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