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An A to Z of Deadly Diseases

Why an A - Z of diseases?

A simple A to Z list of diseases with notes can be used to compare and contrast treatments, the way that different cultures approach illnesses and the varied levels of success that scientists have had in tackling diseases.

A - Anthrax - Anthrax is one of the oldest surviving diseases and was mentioned in the writings of Hippocrates and in the Old Testament. It is a highly lethal disease that can affect both animals and humans. Louis Pasteur developed an effective vaccine for Anthraz in 1881 and deaths have greatly reduced since then but the disease has not yet been eradicated.

B - Black Death - The Black Death spread through Asia into Europe in the mid 14th century AD. It killed between 30% and 60% of Europes population. Scientists are debating whether it was caused by a bug called Yersinia Pestis or a viral fever (most textbooks say the first of these as the alternative is a relatively new argument).

C - Cholera - Cholera originated in the Indian sub-continent. It spread along trade routes and first struck this country in 1831. There were several major outbreaks of the disease, notably in 1849 and 1854. The latter of these prmpted John Snow to conduct research into the cause of the disease. Cholera spreads quickly in areas where the water supply is contaminated. In 2000 the World Health Organisation published statistics showing that 87% of recent cases were in Africa.

D - Diptheria - Diptheria is a contagious disease that can kill. Its most obvious sympton is a sore throat. In 1878 it claimed the lives of two members of the British Royal Family. An 'Anti-toxin' which tackles the disease was introduced by Emil von Behring in 1890 and a vaccine was later introduced.

E - Epilepsy - Epilepsy is a neurological disease charectorised by unpredictable seizures. It has exsited since ancient times. In the past Epilepsy was often thought to be the work of the devil or evil spirits and sufferers were often ostracised or treated with supernatural cures. Nowadays people with epilepsy have medication which limits the chances of them having a seizure.

F - Fever - Fevers have been around for as long as mankind. Greek treatments of Fevers were based on the Theory of the Four Humors. The theory was that a fever was caused by having too much blood rushing around so the treatment was to bleed the patient. The theory of opposites was also used. If you were too hot, you are given cold drinks etc to cool you down.

G - Gangrene - Gangrene occurs when blood stops getting into veins and infection sets in. It was common for battlefield wounds to become infected in this way and the onset of gangrene often resulted in an amputation. One of the more effective historical treaments of Gangrene was urine therapy, where the area is cleaned with urine. This helped to clear up the infection.

H - HIV - Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a condition where the cells that tackle infections are attacked and weakened. This then leads to AIDS Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) for which there is no cure. HIV / AIDS has killed more than 25 million people since it was first discovered in 1981 and is considered to be a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

I - Influenza - Influenza is more commonly called the Flu. It is spread through the air, often as a result of coughs and sneezes. There are many variants of the flu. Recently we have seen 'Swine Flu' and 'Bird Flu' outbreaks. At the end of the First World War there was an outbreak of the Flu known as Spanish Influenza. This oubreak killed more people than the war had!

J - Jaundice - Jaundice is a discolouration of the skin, where it becomes more yellow in appearance. In the past people thought that people with Jaundice would see things with a yellow tint, probably because the eyes can be jaundiced as well. It is caused by a disfunctional liver.

K - Kidney Failure - Kidney Failure can now be treated by use of a Dialysis machine. This machine performs the function of the Kidney. It was invented by Dr Willem Kolff in occupied Holland during the Second World War. In essence the dialysis machine is attached to a persons blood flow and cleans the blood before returning it to the body.

L - Leprosy - Leprosy is a disease that affects the skin. Sufferers of leprosy have skin legions that look as though the skin is rotting away. The disease has been around for at least 4000 years. Historical treatments include leper colonies where the sufferers are isolated from other people and until the 19th century it was commonly believed that bathing in blood would help to cure the illness.

M - MRSA - Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (also known as Multidrug resistant) is a 'superbug' that is resistant to antibiotics. It attacks wounds and can cause death. It spreads in places where cleanliness is an issue and is one of the main reasons why there are so many hand washes in hospitals and doctors surgeries.

N - Narcolepsy - Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder which results in low quality sleep that means that someone with the condition will often be very drowsy during the day. It was first identified as a condition in the late 19th century and treatments over time have included the use of anti-depressants and use of X-Rays.

O - Osteoporosis - Osteoporosis is a condition where the bone density is low and bones are more likely to break as a result. It can be prevented through a balanced lifestyle and diet that is rich in calcium ad vitamin D. The condition is more common in people over the age of 50 (more than half of Americans over 50 have the condition) and is treated in a number of ways.

P - Polio - Polio is a viral disease that causes paralysis of muscles and can lead to death. It has exsisted from Ancient Times and was much feared in the Western World before Jonas Salk created a vaccine for the disease in 1965. Now most people in developed countries are vaccinated against the disease and it is rare for someone to catch it. However this is not the case throughout the developing world where Polio continues to be a serious threat to health.

Q - Q Fever - A disease found most commonly in people who work with cattle. First discovered in 1937 this disease was later considered suitable as a possible biological weapon. A vaccine for Q Fever was introduced in 2001 in Australia.

R - Rabies - Rabies is a viral infection that is passed on from animals, normally through a bite. It causes acute headaches, over production of saliva and attacks the nervous system. It is usually fatal. In 1885 Louis Pasteur created a vaccine for Rabies. Rabies has been eradicated in the UK but still exists in other parts of the world.

S - Smallpox - Smallpox was a major killer for over 3000 years. Survivors of the disease would be disfigured and often blinded. In 1798 Edward Jenner managed to introduce an effective vaccine against Smallpox. Since then global campaigns to vaccine against the disease have led to it successfuy being eradicated 30 years ago.

T - Tubercolosis - Tubercolosis (TB) affects the lungs and can be deadly. The Pasteur Institute in Paris worked on a vaccine from 1905 to 1921, but vaccination programmes in the UK weren't common until after the Second World War.

U - Urinary Tract Infection - a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) is caused when the bladder becomes infected. Nowadays they can be treated with antibiotics. Prior to the availability of antibiotics natural rememdies were used. For example Cranberry juice was quite effective at clearing up UTI's and the Native Americans drank Urva Usi Tea to combat them.

V - Vertigo - Vertigo is a kind of dizziness caused by a problem in the inner ear. There are several kinds of Vertigo which have different causes and treatments.

W - Whooping Cough - Whooping Cough is a highly infectious disease. Its name comes from the 'whoop' sound made when coughing. A vaccine was developed for Whooping Cough in the 1920's in America. However the vaccine had some complications and some people died as a result of poor quality vaccines so uptake for the vaccination wasn't universal. A safer vaccination was developed in the early 1990's.

X - X Ray Exposure - Whilst its pretty safe to have an x-ray it is quite dangerous to be exposed to X-Rays on a regular basis. This is why radiographers are shielded from the machines. X-Ray exposure can lead to cancers developing and radiation poisoning.

Y - Yellow Fever - Yellow Fever is spread by mosquito bites and has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide. The first successful attempts to eradicate the disease were in Havana, where the ideas of Doctors Finlay and Reed were put into practice after 1900. The first vaccines were developed in the 1930's and cases of Yelow Fever dropped significantly in the years that followed.

Z - Zoster - Zoster is more commonly known as chickenpox (for a first infection) or shingles (for a second infection). It causes painful blisters to appear all over the body. It can be treated with steriods, antiviral medicines and lotions.





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