I know, I know. This is a little on the nose, given the last few years we have had. Last week, my RAT test returned the dreaded double stripe, and I have been sitting in my living room staring out the window for a few days. Truth be told, I haven’t been sick for such a long time, I’m out of practice. Our sudden preoccupation with hygiene has seen “unprecedented” low rates of the flu, and according to ScientificAmerican.com, it practically disappeared in 2020. But when COVID finally becomes endemic, these other conditions are going to emerge from their hibernation. Today, I am going to walk you through some of the most infectious viruses and diseases. Strap yourselves in, it’s a wild ride!
As I mentioned, this is one to keep an eye on. In 1918, fresh off the back of World War 1, the Spanish flu pandemic killed somewhere between 50 to 100 million people all over the world. As though the world hadn’t just seen enough horror… The real kick of it is that it was probably spread by soldiers returning home. War. What is it good for? We don’t need to be in a flu outbreak for this to be a serious disease however. Each year, somewhere between three and five million people will get influenza, and a quarter to a half a million of those cases will be fatal.
Influenza has won a serious PR battle, by convincing the average punter that if you get the common cold, and it is especially nasty, then you must have the flu. As such, we are a bit blase about it all. You might consider an annual inoculation against influenza, and if you suspect you might have it, seek medical treatment. It is NOT, I repeat, NOT the same thing as the cold.
This is a big concern if you plan to travel to anywhere equatorial (south east Asia, Africa, Central America). Malaria is spread through mosquitos, and each year nearly 200 million people contract malaria. Sadly, hundreds of thousands of people lose their lives every year to malaria, making it one of the largests causes of preventable deaths. If you do pick it up overseas, not all is lost. Our hospitals are more than equipped to counter the parasite, but time is of the essence.
OK, foot off the accelerator for a moment. This one is less likely to swoop in modern Australia. Many people’s first thought are the biblical narratives of Jesus healing the leper, and they think that this must be some ancient disease, long since cured. If only. As little as 40 years ago, there were almost 5.2 million cases of leprosy worldwide. In 21st century Australia, cases rarely break into the hundreds. Even if you are one of the unlucky few, you are unlikely to be relegated to a leper colony on the outskirts of town, nor are your appendages likely to start falling off. It can be treated with standard antibiotics and you’ll be back fighting fit in no time.
This is another one you need to be aware of if you’re travelling to places with less strict regulations around food and hygiene. It is a bacterial infection that will spread to over ten million people annually. Again, over 200,000 will lose their lives to typhoid Fever. A quick side note: Historians speculate that Alexander the Great died of typhoid. This is the guy who conquered most of the known world, so if it can happen to him, it could happen to you! Your only advantage is that modern Australian hospitals have the wherewithal to treat it properly.
Floyd, you might be saying at this point, the chances of me picking up typhoid and malaria are slim, let alone leprosy. Give me something useful! Well, you’re a harsh judge. But I have been saving something for the end. Something that won’t kill you, but your chances of infection are extraordinarily high. And once you’ve got it, you might find yourself longing to trade it for influenza. I am talking of course, about the blight that is the cold sore.
The cold sore is a virus which sits on your bottom lip in the form of a blister or a scab. They can hang around for up to three weeks; trust me, you feel every second of those 21 days. NSW Health estimates that about three quarters of Australians have been infected with this virus at some point in their lives. Sadly, once you have it, you’ve always got it in your system whether or not you currently have blisters. And to make matters worse, it is technically the same virus as the sexually transmitted infection herpes. But hold up, there is some good news. A cold sore cream can cut the time in half. The antivirals (such as aciclovir) in a cold sore cream will shrink the blisters so that you don’t feel quite so conspicuous. We have an extensive supply, so take a browse today to find a cold sore cream that can get you back on track. Beyond that, you can reduce the incidences of cold sores by reducing stress. That feels slightly like a catch-22 to me: Stop stressing about cold sores! Stop stressing about cold sores! If that does anything other than stress you out even more, my hat goes off to you.
I hope you enjoyed this little walk down ‘infectious diseases and viruses’ lane. I didn’t even mention COVID-19, but I am sure you are all well and truly sick of hearing/thinking/stressing about it by now.