Proposed Research Topic
Infectious Diseases: Threats and Implications for the health sector; a case study of Tuberculosis (TB).
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What are the key risk factors, health implications, and appropriate prevention strategies for TB infections?
An infectious disease as defined by World Health Organization (WHO, 2004) is a disease that occurs as a result of an infection by a specific infectious agent and can be spread via an intermediate animal or plant, vector, or the immediate environment to a vulnerable host by the infected animal, individual or inanimate carrier. The human TB is caused when an individual is infected by mycobacteria, predominantly Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The infected individual can produce airborne droplets when they sneeze, cough or talk. Thus, “when another person inhales the infectious droplets, they lodge in the alveoli or bacilli from where they are taken up by macrophages triggering a series of events that may result in development of active disease or containment of the infection” (Frieden et al., 2003, p. 34).
In the contemporary society where the high numbers of people have put serious strains to the limited health resources, the need for empirical research into the causes and exact numbers of individuals affected by various infectious diseases that can help in priority setting to curb the disease is inevitable. Health programs and economic evaluations have helped in the increased knowledge base on the relative contributions of particular infectious diseases to loss of life (Jamison et al., 1993). Carrying out a study to single out the risk factors and providing the appropriate recommendations on various strategies that that can be applied in curbing the spread and ultimately reducing the deaths that result from such diseases is of dominant importance to the health sector and humanity as a whole.
Despite myriad efforts, the availability of drugs and continuous health research, some infectious diseases have remained major health challenges. For example, Tuberculosis (TB) remains to be one of the most significant causes of death from an infectious agent, being second after HIV (WHO, 2004f). The new and re-emerging infectious diseases continue to pose serious global health threats and exacerbate the social, political and economic problems across all economies. According to WHO (2004), infectious diseases are responsible for approximately a quarter of all the estimated 54 million deaths globally. The major causes of these infectious diseases can be attributed to changes in human behavior. Although the threat of infectious diseases is relatively low in comparison to that of non-infectious diseases, the trend has been rising as a result of the re-emergence of some infectious diseases that are now more virulent and drug resistant than their predecessors. According to WHO (2004) the known infectious diseases that are likely to cause serious health effects to the globe are: HIV/AIDS, TB, Hepatitis C and more lethal variants of flu. For instance, TB has in the recent times been exacerbated by the emergence of multi-drug resistant strains. In spite of the considerable achievements made in efforts to curb this new kind of TB, it still remains a serious healthy challenge due to the high cost involved in treating the disease and spread of HIVAIDS co-infections. Further, due to increased travel and trade between countries, and the disease being air borne there is higher risks of new infections in to areas where the disease does not exist currently (Jamison et al., 1993). TB control remains very high in the international public health agenda because of the massive costs involved in treating TB patients. Moreover, TB control is a priority because according research by Jamison et al (1993) short-course chemotherapy is an effective health intervention procedure.
The study will be very important because it will help address the persistent and re-emerging infectious diseases that in various ways have caused economic decay, social fragmentation, and political destabilization in countries where the disease burden has been high. As already indicated, the cost involved in treatment of TB are massive, therefore, new infections come with heavy economic implications with projected reduction in GDP by up to 20 per cent in the hardest hit countries in Sub Saharan Africa (Jamison et al.,1993).
Several risk factors are responsible for the recent re-emergence of infectious diseases. These re-emergences of various infectious diseases are due to the dramatic changes recorded in human behavior accompanied by broader social, economic, and technological advancements witnessed in the 21st Century. Changes in human behavior includes migrations, lifestyle changes, technology driven medical procedures, increasing international travel and trade, as well as inappropriate use of anti biotic that results in drug resistance (Jamison et al.,1993). Furthermore, climatic changes permit disease causing pathogens and vectors to expand their geographical locations. In fact, climate change has been reported as the immediate environmental risk factor that has led the spread of infectious disease to areas where the disease initially did not exist. Moreover, the spread of infectious diseases is aggravated by the interaction of these risk factors. For example, rapid population increases witnessed in various parts of the world coupled with high rates of urban growth will continue to aid the movement of disease causing vectors among populations (WHO, 2004).
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Frieden, T. et al. (2003). Tuberculosis. Lancet 362: 887–99.
Jamison, D. T., et al. (1993). Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries. New York: Oxford University Press.
World Health Organization (WHO, 2004).World Health Report 2004: Changing History. Geneva: WHO.