It is true that medical research has made some massive advances in recent years. New medicines and forms of treatment have helped to make the word a far healthier place to live in.
However, there are still some diseases around that you might have thought had long since disappeared.
When you think about the Bubonic Plague you probably imagine a medieval town with dead bodies piling up in the street and sneaky little rats running all over the place, don't you? Surely we developed a cure for that disease centuries ago, didn't we? Well, the truth is that this horrible disease has never truly disappeared from the planet. While the major pandemics all happened a long time ago, there have been some serious outbreaks in recent times. In the early 20th century there were a number of outbreaks in Australia, while 52 people died of the Bubonic Plague in India in 1994. The most recent cases have been reported in the African island of Madagascar. While there is a treatment available for this disease, patients need to get treated almost immediately if they are going to be able to survive it.
Whopping cough is one of those diseases that mankind has come so close to eradicating. The first reports of this disease are from the 16th century and it caused untold death and misery over the following centuries. In the 1940s an effective vaccine was developed and it seemed as though whooping cough was thoroughly beaten. However, it has made an devastating comeback in recent years. The number of people infected has been rising, with many people putting the blame on parents who don't get their kids vaccinated. Another school of thought is that the vaccine simply doesn't protect people for a very long time. Interestingly, it is most common in developed countries, with the US reporting particularly high numbers of cases.
Tuberculosis sounds like the kind of olde worlde disease that people only ever got back in the days when Sherlock Holmes used to ride through London pea-soupers in a carriage. Yet, despite a cure being developed over half a century ago it is still a serious threat to our health. In fact, tuberculosis is currently ranked as the third most deadly disease on Earth. It is believed that a third of the world's population is infected and up to a million and a half people died of the disease in 2013. It can normally be controlled by medicines but drug resistant strains of tuberculosis are a big worry. Tuberculosis was almost non-existent in the UK by the 1970s but a recent outbreak saw a worrying number of cases in London, where the rate of the disease climbed to a higher level than in many developing countries. Perhaps the work done on clinical trials will help us to finally eradicate this disease entirely.
Mumps is yet another disease that appeared to be pretty much consigned to the past, at least in developed countries where the vaccine is present. The vaccine has been around since the late 1940s and is typically part of the MMR vaccine. Cases in the US dropped by up to 99% once the vaccination was made available. Recent campaigns by anti-vaccine groups have been blamed for the re-appearance of mumps in the US and other countries where it had become almost non-existent.
This disease is a throat infection that has been around for centuries and has claimed many lives along the way. In this case, there is no vaccine but it can be treated effectively with antibiotics. We didn't hear very much about scarlet fever for a long time but in the last few years the number of cases reported has soared in the China, the UK and parts of the US. It isn't yet clear why this disease is making such a strong comeback but the good news is that it is no longer considered as deadly as it once was. With the help of more research and medical test volunteers this disease may disappear once and for all.
This horrific disease is another that has been controlled in the developed world tanks to vaccines. Sadly, the same can't be said of less well developed region of the planet. India, Syria, Nigeria and Afghanistan are some of the countries where an increase in the number of cases has been reported in recent times, after a long spell where it seemed to be on the wane. The current plan is for polio to be completely eradicated by 2018, thanks to extended vaccination efforts and early detection of the disease.