Stopping the Spread

Infectious diseases are infectious. It’s kinda where they got their name from. I love infectious diseases, I always have. And, since I left University (about n years ago now) if it wasn’t for infectious diseases I wouldn’t have had a job.


As I’ve mentioned several times on here, infectious diseases are far from being beaten by the supposed might of humankind. In fact, they’re actually winning our war against them, what with their rapid reproduction and their pacy genetic mutations. Still, we have had some small successes.
One of the other things which makes life difficult for us puny humans is the diverse tactics which we have to employ in order to achieve these positive outcomes. And here come a couple of good cases in point.

China has more than halved its tuberculosis (TB) prevalence.
Now, as you’ll know, TB is very close to my heart (not literally), and this is truly a huge battle for China to have won/be winning. It’s being fought with the joint weaponry of money, organisation and a huge expansion of a community-based disease control programme.

Lead researcher Dr Yu Wang, from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, said: “One of the key global TB targets set by the Stop TB Partnership aims to reduce tuberculosis prevalence by 50% between 1990 and 2015.
This study in China is the first to show the feasibility of achieving such a target, and China achieved this five years earlier than the target date.”

And it gives hope for other countries with high TB rates, South Africa included. And we do have, even as part of this apparently completely dysfunctional government of ours, a pretty decent guy heading up the Department of Health. I have high hopes that he will be very interested in this aggressive approach demonstrated by China. As we know:

TB remains a big issue in many countries, including India, Russia and many African nations. Better diagnostic tools and treatments are still needed.

Indeed. No quick fix here, but please be aware that I’m working on it.

And then a wholly different approach to stopping a wholly different disease – attempts to combat the recent Ebola outbreak in Guinea include banning the eating of bats:

[Health Minister] Mr Lamah announced the ban on the sale and consumption of bats during a tour of Forest Region, the epicentre of the epidemic, reports the BBC’s Alhassan Sillah from the capital, Conakry.

People who eat the animals often boil them into a sort of spicy pepper soup, our correspondent says. The soup is sold in village stores where people gather to drink alcohol.
Other ways of preparing the bats to eat include drying them over a fire.

And yes, Ebola loves bats. They’re widely recognised as the probable reservoir for the virus (i.e. where it hangs out before it kills loads of humans) and if you’re going to eat a bat packed full of Ebola virus, surprise surprise, you’re going to catch Ebola virus.

Ensuring that Guinea’s Ebola patients take a cocktail of antibiotics daily, as China has done with its TB patients, would have about as much effect as preventing those Chinese TB patients from eating bats.


There is no one set approach here, no magic bullet. Different diseases require radically different methods of prevention and cure.
It’s nice that we’re beginning to get at least some of them right.

2 thoughts on “Stopping the Spread

  1. This post should come with a “No hypochodriacs” warning.

    There’s a tickle in the back of my throat.

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