The Changing Face Of Disease

Words: Dr Narayan C DESHPANDE

We are now at the threshold of a new era in which millions of people would be safe from some of the most terrible diseases that have haunted humankind. Poliomyelitis, neonatal tetanus, leprosy, Guinea worm disease, night blindness, and Chagas disease, will soon join small pox as the illnesses of the past. Just think of it: WHO Health Report 1996 articulated that “Some infectious diseases which were thought to be conquered have returned with vengeance.” New and previously unknown diseases continue to emerge. The factors responsible for the emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases are —

  • Unplanned and under-planned urbanisation
  • Overcrowding and rapid population growth
  • Poor sanitation
  • Inadequate public health infrastructure
  • Resistance to antibiotics
  • Increased exposure of human beings to disease vectors and reservoirs of infection in nature
  • Rapid and intense international travel.

Emerging Infectious Diseases

There are a host of diseases whose incidence has increased during the last two decades, or threaten to increase in the near future. The term also refers to newly appearing infectious diseases, or diseases that are spreading to new geographical areas, such as cholera in South America and yellow fever in Kenya. The most dramatic example is AIDS, caused by human immunodeficiency virus [HIV]. The existence of human immunodeficiency virus was unknown at one point, but it infected an estimated 29.9 million adults and children worldwide. This number could grow to a total of 50 million by fall 2022.

A new outbreak of deadly haemorrhagic fevers, of which Ebola is the most notorious, has struck Africa, and Asia, the United States and Latin America. The natural carrier of Ebola virus, presumably an animal, has not been identified. The United States has seen the emergence of Hanta Virus Pulmonary Syndrome, characterized by respiratory failure and a case fatality rate of 50 per cent. The virus is carried by rodents, particularly mice.

Epidemics of food-borne and water-borne diseases due to new organisms, such as cryptosporidium and new strains of bacteria such as Escherichia coli have hit industrialised and developing countries. A completely new strain of cholera appeared in South–Eastern India in 1992. Of late, dreaded infections, like COVID-19 and dengue, have created havoc, also panic. The world is still looking for a proper method of controlling these diseases.

Re-Emerging Diseases

The term re-emerging disease refers to a disease which was previously controlled by therapy, but has subsequently developed resistance. This may have occurred due to irrational use of drugs in sub-therapeutic doses, changes in lifestyle, behaviour and cultural values. The re-emergence of some infectious diseases, such as syphilis, what with increased number of sexual partners, has been one major factor in the spread of HIV infection and other STDs.

The commercial practice of modern medicine is also contributory. The spread of viral hepatitis is related, in part, to techniques such as kidney dialysis and multiple blood transfusions as well as other forms of transmissions. The recent spread of diphtheria in the Russia and other erstwhile Soviet states has occurred due to relaxation of immunisation.

Response To Epidemics

This involves the quick diagnosis of the disease, investigations to understand the source of transmission, implementation of controlled strategies and programmes, research to develop adequate means to treat the disease and prevent its spread, along with the production of necessary drugs and vaccines. The spectre of Ebola and other viral haemorrhagic fevers is probably most frightening. Their natural history is unknown and our understanding of the factors responsible for their emergence and how they interact is incomplete. The need, therefore, is for expanding research on such diseases. Much of this already applies to AIDS — one of the most serious diseases to emerge in recent times.

Role Of Homeopathy

Homeopathy is a holistic system of medicine, based on eternal laws. A professional homeopath, apart from their clinical and hospital services, should be keyed towards society, more so to educating people about health, hygiene, sanitation, and importance of personal hygiene. They should diligently ‘school’ people, so that health can prevail in the community.

The best part is, there is no question of any disease, or bacteria, getting resistant to homeopathic medicines, or remedies. Homeopathic remedies are derived from natural sources; they are used in their dynamic [‘potentised’] form. You’d call it — less is more medicine. The homeopathic remedies, which were used for specific indications earlier, are now being used and will also be used further with same effectiveness.

Homeopathic remedies never change. Homeopathy is, by far, the most economical of all medicinal systems. You’d think of it as the most affordable system for treatment of several diseases that haunt us, today, also tomorrow.

Dr NARAYAN C DESHPANDE, BSc, MD [Hom], is Author & Ambassador, ThinkWellness360. He’s formerly Officiating Professor & HOD, A H Medical College, Bengaluru, Professor Emeritus, and former in-charge Principal, Government Homeopathic Medical College & Hospital, Bengaluru, former PG Guide, Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Karnataka, former PG Examiner, Mangalore University, MGR University of Health Sciences, Chennai, Health University, Salem, and former Health Expert, Karnataka Public Service Commission, Bengaluru. A recipient of the prestigious Nadaprabhu Kempegowda Award for his 35+ years of commendable service to homeopathic education and alternative healthcare, Dr Deshpande lives in Bengaluru, India.

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