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Micro-organisms in retreat!

Shamsul Huq Zahid | November 09, 2018 00:00:00

Bacteria, viruses and protozoa, the deadly ones in particular, must be cursing themselves for not being effective enough in Bangladesh despite the fact that the country offers a very positive environment for their breeding and finding victims. A piece of information, revealed at a discussion meeting in Dhaka on Tuesday last, that non-infectious diseases were responsible for most deaths in Bangladesh would surely dishearten them. The tiny organisms that can only be seen with the help of microscopes, seemingly, are losing their hold, as far as the death in this country is concerned!

Speakers at the discussion, quoting a study conducted by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) of Washington University said non-infectious diseases claim more than 67 per cent deaths in Bangladesh, heart disease and cancer being the leading ones.

The situation was entirely different seven to eight decades back when most deaths were caused by harmful bacteria and viruses. Cholera, smallpox, typhoid and pneumonia -- all infectious and a few highly communicable diseases -- were the leading causes of deaths in this part of the world. Thousands of people died almost without treatment, mostly in villages. People dreaded cholera and smallpox beyond any description and used to flee their villages in the event of outbreak of these diseases.

The development of effective antibiotic drugs and miracle solution -- oral saline -- has made it easy to deal with cholera patients.

A worldwide immunisation programme eradicated smallpox decades back.

But, if not micro-organisms, the people here, to some extent, are killing themselves. Problems such as rapid urbanisation, over-population, unhealthy lifestyle, pollution of environment, consumption of unsafe food and tobacco are their own doings. These are thought to be great contributors to the rise in the incidence of non-infectious diseases.

The factors that trigger cancer in humans are now more or less known to medical scientists and efforts are on to win the battle against it. Leading pharmaceutical companies across the globe have been investing billions of dollars to find remedies against the disease that is dreaded most by humans.

Erratic lifestyle, polluted environment and unsafe food and tobacco consumption are among the leading causes of diseases such as cancer, cardiac disorder, kidney and liver malfunction and diabetes. However, genetic factors might also have a role in some cases.

For doctors prescribing antibiotics and other drugs following diagnostic tests is somewhat an easy job and patients do usually faithfully take the drugs suggested by them (doctors). Doctors do also often advise what their patients should or shouldn't do for the sake of their health, but much depends on how seriously the latter comply with the same. They might follow the doctors' advice, fully or partially, or totally ignore it. Consequences, thus, belong to patients, not doctors.

Besides, physicians can hardly play any role in non-medical issues that are contributing to the rise in deaths due to non-infectious diseases. Greater social awareness, adherence to fair play by various segments of society and decisive and firm role of the government are necessary to bring down the incidence of such diseases.

For instance, another IHME study found that cardiac failure was the most dominant among the non-infectious diseases in Bangladesh between 1990 and 2013. The factors that are responsible for heart diseases can be avoided or dealt with, to a great extent, through a healthy lifestyle. What is important here is creating necessary awareness among the people by the government and other agencies operating in the health sector. This is also true in the case of many other non-infectious diseases.


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