10 deadly outbreaks

From cholera and smallpox to the Spanish Flu and bubonic plague, learn which diseases could still harm you today

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    Yellow Fever

    Yellow fever is a deadly viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes. It got its name from the jaundice that affects infected patients, making them appear yellow. There are still 30,000 deaths from yellow fever each year, most commonly in tropical areas. There is no cure for yellow fever, and treatment aims at reducing the symptoms of the patient, which include fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, and bleeding from the mouth, nose and eyes. Vaccination is the most important preventative measure against yellow fever.
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    Typhoid is still prevalent in developing countries, so international travelers should be vaccinated against it. This illness is caused by a type of salmonella bacteria. Salmonella typhi is carried in the bloodstream and intestinal tract. Symptoms of typhoid fever can include a sustained fever, a feeling of weakness, stomach pains, headache and loss of appetite. In some cases, patients have a rash of flat, rose-colored spots. Typhoid fever is most often treated with antibiotics that can clear the infection within 2-3 days.
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    Spanish Flu

    Between 1918 and 1919, the Spanish Flu killed between 20 and 40 million people. It truly was a global disaster. The flu was deadliest in people ages 20 to 40, and it infected 28 percent of all Americans. The Spanish flu was more severe than the seasonal flu: Patients complained of extreme chills and fatigue, but often they developed fluid in their lungs. Patients’ faces often turned brown and purple and their feet became black.
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    Smallpox emerged from the variola virus thousands of years ago, and the World Health Organization certified the disease’s eradication in 1979, due to successful vaccination campaigns. However, smallpox killed an estimated 60 million Europeans in the 18th century, and an estimated 300-500 million deaths around the world in the 20th century. Long-term side effects for survivors include skin scars, infertility and sometimes blindness. Symptoms include fever, head and body aches and rash.
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    Malaria kills approximately 2 million people a year and causes 400 to 900 million cases of fever each year. Malaria’s parasites are transmitted by mosquitoes, and they multiple in red blood cells.  Symptoms include anemia, fever, nausea, and in extreme cases, coma and death. Malaria is most problematic in tropical and subtropical regions of the world.
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    Cholera caused eight pandemics throughout history, beginning in 1817. The disease came from dirty water in India’s Ganges River and broke out during a festival in Calcutta. The disease transferred to other parts of India, and eventually into other sea ports throughout the world through contaminated water kegs and victims’ feces. In 1947, 20,500 people died from the disease in Egypt.  An epidemic spread in central Haiti on Friday as aid groups rushed doctors and supplies to fight the country's worst health crisis since January's earthquake. Nearly 200 deaths had been confirmed and more than 2,000 people were ill.  
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    A doctor displays collected samples of the Ebola virus at the Centre for Disease Control in Entebbe, about 23 miles southwest of Uganda's capital Kampala, August 2, 2012. Recently, at least 53 cases of the dreaded hemorrhagic fever disease Ebola are suspected, with 16 deaths reported in Uganda. Ebola is a highly infectious viral disease characterized by fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, red eyes, rash similar to measles, and bleeding from body openings and mucous membranes including eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and others. The disease is also referred to as a hemorrhagic fever because it causes massive hemorrhaging of blood vessels throughout the body. Spread by contact with body fluids, the incubation phase of Ebola takes between two to 21 days.
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    According to MyHealthNewsDaily, the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea is becoming increasingly resistant to yet another drug, which now leaves just one medication that can be used as a first-line treatment for the disease, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over the last several decades, the bacteria that cause gonorrhea have developed resistance to many antibiotics used to treat the condition, including penicillin, tetracycline and fluoroquinolones. That left just one class of drugs, called cephalosporins — which include the drugs cefixime and ceftriaxone — to be used as treatment. The CDC announced it no longer recommends cefixime, an oral medication, as a first-line treatment for gonorrhea, citing data over the last several years that show cefixime has become less effective at treating the infection. That leaves ceftriaxone — an antibiotic delivered by injection — as the most effective therapy for the condition, health officials say
    Photomicrograph of Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria - CDC/Dr. Stephen J. Kraus
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    Health officials say the nation is on track to have the worst year for whooping cough in more than five decades. Nearly 18,000 cases have been reported so far - more than twice the number seen at this point last year. At this pace, the number of whooping cough cases will surpass every year since 1959. Wisconsin and Washington state each have reported more than 3,000 cases, and high numbers have been seen in a number of other states, including New York, Minnesota, Kansas and Arizona. Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial disease. It leads to severe coughing that causes children to make a distinctive whooping sound as they gasp for breath. In rare cases it can be fatal, and nine children have died so far this year. Children get vaccinated against whooping cough in five doses, with the first shot at age 2 months and the final one between 4 and 6 years. Then a booster is recommended around age 11. The vaccine's protection does wane and health officials have debated moving up the booster shot. The CDC is urging adults and especially pregnant women to get vaccinated so they don't spread it to infants who are too young to get the vaccine. Whooping cough used to cause hundreds of thousands of illnesses a year but cases fell after a vaccine was introduced in the 1940s.  
    AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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    Paul Gaylord, 60, recently contracted a rare case of the bubonic plague trying to take a mouse from the jaws of a choking cat at his home in Prineville, in rural Oregon. The bubonic plague, famously known as the “Black Death,” is an often fatal infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pesti, which is most commonly carried by rodents and fleas.  In the Middle Ages, millions of people throughout Europe died from the plague, which has since been blamed on the flea-infested rats that were common in homes and places of work at the time. Today, we have the modern antibiotics to effectively treat this illness if it is caught early.  However, if a patient with the infection is not treated immediately, it is still likely to cause death, and outbreaks still occur in rural communities.
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