Actually, I don’t have a fever, but I’ve been doing some research on the more “interesting” (read: horrifying and disgusting) diseases out there in the developing world. It’s not *exactly* part of my job, but let’s say it certainly comes up as important and necessary information for some of my colleagues who travel to the regions, leading humanitarian aid projects where these diseases are prevalent and a fact of life.
I have learned more about Chikungunya, Cholera, Malaria, Typhoid Fever, Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, and the super-scary Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever than I ever expected to learn about in my lifetime. I have seen more pictures of people suffering from these diseases, learned about survival rates, geographical hotspots and transmission vectors, than I ever expected to. And I have also learned about some of the most effective and simple methods to combat, prevent, and mitigate most of these diseases.
When it comes to those diseases transmitted by the bites of mosquitoes (Malaria, Dengue Fever, Chikungunya, Yellow Fever), the simplest, least expensive and most effective way to combat being infected is through the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets. The Canadian National Office of my organization launches a “Spread the Net” campaign every year, in the fight to end the global spread of malaria. STN challenges schools and organizations to fund-raise in order to purchase these bed nets in large numbers (@ $10 per net), and distributes them to affected areas across the developing world. For star celebrity power and media attention, our Spread The Net campaign has partnered with Rick Mercer (host of “The Rick Mercer Report“, and well-known and revered throughout Canada for his mockumentary series, “Talking to Americans“).
When it comes to most other diseases, however, it appears that a few very simple actions can help slow the spread of these vicious killers: simple handwashing/personal cleanliness, and boiling of water before use.
The thing that was most surprising for me to understand when I first came to work here, however, was actually how seldom personal cleanliness occurs in developing countries. Not to put too fine (or disgusting) a point on it, many developing countries don’t have access to clean, running water, never mind suitable toilet facilities. In fact, it’s quite common in poor communities to poop in the fields where food is grown, then continue on with their day. Known as Open Defecation, people have been doing this for GENERATIONS. Typhoid and cholera love these communities big time.
I shudder at the very thought.
I have many, many more things to say about this topic and various side topics as I learn more and more about the developing world and how developed countries can do more to help, but I’ll stop here for now. Tonight I’m going to go home, let myself into my safe, spacious, clean, air-conditioned home, and look at all of the food in my fridge and pantry, then at the nice clean bathroom with scads of clean, running water for my use any time of the day or night, then at all of the stuff I own.
And I will be very, very thankful.