BANJUL, Gambia — Disease is prevalent throughout the nation of Gambia, due to a lack of access to proper healthcare and certain preventative vaccines, knowledge and resources to practice proper sanitation and the ability to provide adequate treatment. The following are the top five diseases in Gambia:
1. Hepatitis A
Hepatitis is a liver disease that can be transmitted through contaminated food or water, or contact with a contaminated individual. Risks of contracting the viral disease are associated with a lack of clean water, improper sanitation and hygiene.
In Gambia, unpasteurized dairy products and water that hasn’t been boiled are not recommended for consumption by visitors, as they carry the risk of transmitting Hepatitis A.
Gambia’s 2010 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey report shows that only 32 percent of households have an improved drinking water source on their premises. In fact, only 40 percent of the population has access to sanitation equipment and resources. Consequently, water contamination is the cause of 20 percent of deaths under the age of five, which is detrimental to Gambia’s population.
One of many harmful diseases in Gambia, Malaria is caused by the bite of an infected female mosquito. Risks of contracting the disease are associated with poor preventative treatment, as well as an improper diagnosis.
Malaria incidents in Gambia have rapidly decreased in recent years, due to closer monitoring of cases and increased funding directed to human resources.
Cases have also decreased, because of the World Health Organization’s Global Technical Strategy for Malaria, which was adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2015. The strategy provides an all-inclusive framework to guide nations in stopping the spread of malaria. The target is set at reducing global malaria incidence and mortality rates by at least 90 percent by 2030.
3. Typhoid Fever
Typhoid fever, a bacterial disease, is easily spread through the ingestion of food or drink tainted by the feces or urine of infected people. Normally, typhoid fever is easily treated with antibiotics; however, not having access to such medications may be detrimental.
In June, the Medical Research Center of Gambia honored both Dr. Eniyou Cheryll Oriero and Isatou Sarr with the Early Career Women Scientist award for their work in creating accessible treatment options for diseases, such as typhoid fever, malaria and HIV/AIDS. As awardees, the two doctors were able to attend the 17th International Congress on Infectious Diseases.
Meningococcal Meningitis is transmitted from person to person, so it is advised to avoid congested areas. The bacteria targets the meninges — the thin lining that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord.
Meningitis in Gambia is currently being treated by organizations like the Meningitis Research Foundation, which aims to not only work to eliminate the disease but also to provide access to helpful information for preventative care.
A recent “Men A Vaccine” was developed and employed across sub-Saharan Africa through mass immunization campaigns of everyone between under the age of 30. However, the use of the drug in pregnant women is still unclear. The WHO is currently working with the organization to find a way to provide results-oriented, cost-effective treatment.
Rabies is another vaccine-preventable disease in Gambia. Occurring in over 150 nations and territories, the viral disease most notably affects canines, so vaccinations are pertinent to preventing the spread of the disease. The infection causes tens of thousands of deaths every year, mostly in Asia and Africa, because of a lack of access to proper medication.
In Gambia, tourists are the most likely to contract rabies. Extra caution is advised. According to a recent study by the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene at Oxford University, 24 percent of the rabies-infected patients in 2014 were tourists.
Throughout the West African region of Gambia, the prevalence of Hepatitis A, malaria, typhoid fever, meningitis and rabies can be attributed to the inaccessibility of proper healthcare. With access to sufficient aid resources and information, diseases in Gambia can eventually be decreased, thus reducing the current probability of dying between the ages of 15 and 60.
– Veronica Ung-Kono