What are Tropical Diseases?

Tropical diseases are defined as infectious diseases that occur in the tropical or subtropical regions. These diseases do not only impact the locals in these regions but due to these areas being available to air travel, travelers often contract tropical diseases and bring them back to their homes, thus spreading tropical diseases to other countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) focuses attention on the poor and developing regions of Americas, Asia and Africa. There are ten tropical diseases that WHO focuses on currently. The ten diseases are:

  • African trypanosomiasis
  • Chagas disease
  • Dengue fever
  • Leishmaniasis
  • Leprosy
  • Lymphatic filariasis
  • Malaria
  • Onchocerciasis
  • Schistosomiasis
  • Tuberculosis

Cholera, leprosy, tuberculosis and yellow fever are not exclusively tropical diseases because they do occur elsewhere than just the tropics, they have a very high incidence in the tropics which is why they are included.

Epidemic

There are some occurrences of epidemics such as the Ebola hemorrhagic fever, and the Lassa fever or the Marburg virus which are not considered tropical diseases but do occur in the tropics in epidemic form. Besides Ebola other epidemics have been West Nile disease, Guinea Worm, and Mapucho hemorrhagic fever.

The consistent hot climate and large volume of rains creates the environment that breeds tropical disease. Tropical regions usually also have large reservoirs that are perfect breeding grounds for insects and other animal diseases that can then be transmitted to humans. The high temperatures of the tropics may favor pathogenic agents. The poor economic environment makes it difficult to combat or eliminate endemic tropical diseases.

The greenhouse effect and increasing global temperatures also has an impact on the spread of tropical diseases.

Types

Tropical diseases include eye diseases, skin diseases, insect-borne diseases, parasitic diseases and also infectious diseases. Common names categorized under tropical diseases are: leprosy, malaria, river blindness, schistosomiasis, sleeping sickness, tuberculosis, yellow fever, ringworm, and also chagas disease just to name a few.

One sixth of the world’s population will have to personally deal with a tropical disease. Insects, parasites and vectors all cause tropical diseases. Neglected tropical diseases include Buruli ulcer, cholera, cysticercosis, guinea-worm disease, and food borne infections such as fascioliasis. Dengue is a vector-borne.

Prevention

Tropical diseases can be controlled by medications, better living conditions and improved waste sanitation facilities. Programs that give nutritional support to those who live in areas hit by tropical diseases helps to strengthen the body’s resistance to the effects of disease. Community-wide vaccination programs and medical treatment programs can make a difference. Getting these programs started is often difficult because of local resistance.

Using deet-containing insect repellent, and treating clothing with permethrin can prevent tropical diseases like malaria. Sleeping under a mosquito net is a must. Medications that are prophylactic in nature are used to ward off malaria and include mefloquine, chloroquine, proguanil and also quinine, and also qinghaosu.

Amebiasis can be prevented by following good hand washing techniques, using boiled or filtered water, and by cooking food well. It is also important to avoid eating fly-contaminated foods.

Giardiasis can also be avoided by using good hand washing technique and by boiling or filtering water, and also by cooking food well. It is also important to avoid anal-oral contact.

Schistosomiasis can be prevented if contaminated water (fresh water) is avoided and chlorinated water or seawater is used (lower risk). Bath water should be heated to at least 50 degrees C or 122 degrees F, for more than five minutes or allowed to stand for 3 days before using it.