2022 saw major advances, and even victories in the efforts to combat several diseases, from industrialized to tropical ones.
Starting at home, a study last year found that US cancer deaths had declined by 33% since 1991. This is equivalent to around 3.8 million people alive thanks to various efforts to combat the disease family.
The report was authored by the American Cancer Society, and published in the journal CA. American Cancer Society CEO Karen Knudsen called the drop “truly formidable,” while the report attributed the fall to the development of better treatments, the reduction in smoking habits, and earlier detection methods.
Just between 2019 and 2020, cancer death rates dropped 1.5%, while the deployment of the HPV vaccine was correlated with a 65% drop in cervical cancer rates from 2012 through 2019 among women in their 30s.
The report also found that not only are death rates falling, but 5-year survival rates for detected cancers have increased 68% among all diagnoses made between 2012 and 2018.
Cancer research often involves cutting edge medical research, but across West Africa and India where cutting edge medicine is not widely available, human determination has succeeded in nearly eradicating Guinea Worm disease.
There are records of this truly unpleasant parasite affecting human health going back thousands of years, and in 1989, there were nearly 1 million cases globally.
But in 2022, this unwelcome waterborne guest created just 15 cases worldwide—a decline of 99.998%, and almost all 15 of those cases occurred in Chad.
This monumental turnaround was not the result of some experimental vaccine, but simple education, teaching people how to avoid drinking contaminated water, when and where this mostly seasonal parasite is likely to be found, and how to treat water to purify it of the Guinea worm.
Other than Chad, Guinea Worm disease was also found in Uganda, which produced another medical milestone with the successful eradication of a recent Ebola outbreak.
The outbreak began in September, driven on by the incurable Sudan strain of the virus. It was the worst outbreak in 20 years, but even though there is no vaccine for the Sudan strain, the health authorities managed to contain it to just two administrative districts, and 142 confirmed cases.
“The magic bullet has been our communities who understood the importance of doing what was needed to end the outbreak, and took action,” said health minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng Ocero last Wednesday.
Vaccine trials involving Oxford University are currently underway for the Sudan strain, but until that time, health authorities received congratulations for their swift actions, and were thanked for the “lessons learned.”
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