While it’s hard to make concrete predictions when it comes to travel health, there are some educated guesses we can make while looking forward. In this post we will make some (loose) predictions.
The number of malaria-related deaths will continue to drop
In the past decade, malaria deaths have dropped by more than 20%, according to the World Health Organization. What’s more, there is a lot of evidence that the number of cases is also in decline globally. Enormous progress has been made in both treatment and prevention, with the use of anti-malarial bed nets often touted as a major reason for the reduction. There is also some reason for optimism when it comes to eliminating malaria entirely (see our previously article on this here. All of this said, malaria continues to be a threat to travelers in certain areas, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
Several diseases are close to elimination
Due to diligent vaccination campaigns in some cases or behavioral adjustments and prompt treatment in others, there are some diseases that are on their way out. Earlier this year, we talked about the tremendous progress that has been made with respect to guinea worm. It is currently endemic in only 3 countries after a global fight that continues today. Just last year it was eliminated from Ghana. Polio is another disease that is on its way out — it has been 99% eliminated at the time of writing this.
HIV is not the devastating disease it once was
The advent and widespread implementation of powerful anti-retroviral drugs has led to fewer cases of full blown AIDS and more controlled cases of HIV. This trend is slated to continue in coming years. Furthermore, the number of cases of HIV should continue to decline as the use of anti-retrovirals inhibits transmission, especially between pregnant mothers and their babies.
There will be another Avian Influenza
While we have spent most of our time talking about positive developments in the world of global and travel health, there are some not so pleasing prospects as well.
Picture of Avian Influenza, also known as H1N1
Many researchers, doctors and scientists involved in the global health field have warned that their will likely be more instances of zoonotic diseases threatening populations. A zoonotic disease is simply one that can be transferred between species. Two recent examples are Avian Influenza (H1N1) and SARS. More infamous examples include HIV and the ebola virus. Unfortunately, ease of travel and increased global connectivity increases the chances of another outbreak of a zoonotic disease.
While there is a lot of good news regarding travel health going forward, there is always reason to be on guard for new threats. It’s always important to have a travel health consultation with a doctor before traveling, so that you can be as up to date as possible with immunizations and aware of preventative measures you should take to avoid illness.
Photo credit: flickr user captainkimo