Thursday, December 13, 2007

I feel sick.

December 6, 2007

H/l: India is world sickness capital, says WHO
Intro: Highest numbers for polio, diphtheria, measles and tetanus from 1980 onwards

Mumbai: At a time when the country is marching ahead in medical research and patient care, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has come out with some statistics that should shake us out of our rosy dreams. In a list outlining the health scene of the world, WHO’s figures for India put the country firmly at the number one spot for polio, tetanus, measles and diphtheria for a whopping 26 years.

As per data recently made public from year 1980 onwards, year 2006 has shown that numbers of patients for these diseases is lower than in 2005. However, when compared to the global statistics, in 2006, India has consistently shown the highest numbers of patients for diphtheria (2,472), measles (60,751), polio (676) and Tetanus (2,587) and pertussis or whooping cough (22,616).

Sample these: from 1980 to 2006, India has had the highest figures for tetanus (4,99,536), polio (2,91,474), diphtheria (2,68,613) and pertussis (27,64,253).

In terms of India alone, comparisons made between numbers from 1980 to 2006 show that there has been a steady or, in some cases, relatively sharp decline in recorded cases across all diseases. But again, there is not a single year when India has reported zero cases for any of these diseases, as is the case with some countries like China, which has shown only three cases of polio after 1995 when the country had 165 cases.

China, at 67,74,967, has the highest numbers of reported cases of measles in the world.

A study of the global figures for all the diseases listed shows a few noteworthy trends. Developed nations such as the US and China have shown a drastic drop in reported cases after 1996, with these nations showing zero cases in such diseases as polio and diphtheria.

In fact, except for pertussis, the developed countries show zero reported cases for ten years between 1996 to 2006. wherever cases are reported, the maximum are to be found in India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh (see box).

Pertussis, on the other hand, seems to be the bane of many countries, including the developed ones, which show consistent three-figure or higher cases in all 26 years. Only some countries, like Antigua and Barboda, Bahamas, Egypt, Gambia, Grenada, Mauritius, Maldives and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines registering almost zero cases in the study period.

As per the figures, it is obvious that either India’s expenditure on health and overall healthcare is not on the right track, or that there is some lacunae in reporting of cases in other countries.

Others keeping India company:
- Polio: Nigeria (18,948), Pakistan (26,905) and Egypt (12,455)
- Diphtheria: Russian Federation (1,21,660), Phillipines (21,548), Bangladesh (17,136)
- Tetanus: Nigeria (57,135), Bangladesh (60,085), Egypt (1,10,088), Cambodia (16,966), Brazil (37,028), Bangladesh (60,085)
- Pertussis: Bangladesh (3,51,146), Italy (2,54,756), Nigeria (8,73,343), USA (1,35,650), Vietnam (5,53,592), Australia (89,973),

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