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Diseases in Africa: an accident or inevitability?

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The long-awaited summer has finally come – the time for vacation, paid leave and rest. But even during the crisis travel agencies keep working. One can find lots of tours to different destinations, but, as a rule, most tourists prefer going to developed countries. Those tourists who still choose to go to third world countries are usually called brave and daring, sometimes even reckless. The reason for that is not only their opportunity to go on safari to see wildlife and predators. The unknown exotic African diseases – that’s what frightens people most, as a number of fatal instances were known. So what was the main reason: poor medical treatment, lack of medicine or terminal diseases? The treatment is surely not perfect, but there are also some other factors.

The price of medical treatment would be a good point to start, because it isn’t free in Kenya. This means that for most people treatment is a luxury. Our apothecaries always have at least some painkillers, absorbents, antiseptics and medicine for cold. In Kenya, people simply can’t afford to buy all that. Every child knows that one should drink much if he catches a cold. In Kenya, people die because of the lack of water. The level of ignorance about our immune system must be really high there. Proper diet is usually out of question for the local people because they sometimes don’t have the opportunity to eat at least some food. You won’t find any nutritionists there for love or money. Hygiene is also very important here, due to the lack of water and bad habits which go through generations.

Tungias is a vivid example of possible consequences of the absence of hygiene and footwear. It is a tropical inflammatory skin disease which usually occurs when a sand flea (Tenga penetrans flea) penetrates human skin. The flea releases particular ferments which eventually destroy the skin, eroding its surface. This results in itching, inflammation and suppuration of the affected area.

A female sand flea “digs” its way through the skin, mostly starting its journey in a toe nail, and then it lays eggs. Baby-fleas hatch in 3-4 days. A strong itching may be felt even a couple of days after an adult flea had left the skin surface. As baby-fleas grow bigger and stronger, they provoke this itching, pain and inflammation.

A surgical intervention is the only way to eliminate the flea. Missionaries often use needles to get baby-fleas out of the skin. If this is not done properly, there is a risk of another infection which can lead to a gangrene and sepsis.

All this can be avoided by following simple rules and recommendations: use footwear and agents for protection against insects; wash feet in warm water on a regular basis. Seems simple enough, but how can this problem be solved if there is no footwear? How can you use water to wash your feet, if you have to travel around 6-10 kilometers and then carry it on your head to only have something to drink?

So do the diseases in Africa occur accidentally or inevitably? It is for you to decide.

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Doc with patient

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Author: Oksana Khilinskaya

Published: 2014-06-04 19:21

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