Diseases Thought To Have Been Eradicated, Still Around

Jan 08 2018

Diseases Thought To Have Been Eradicated, Still Around

Diseases thought to have been long eradicated or brought under control are surprisingly still around.




Diseases: Plague

The Black Death that was the scourge during the Middle Ages just isn’t one for the history books or far-flung places. It’s still here and has shown up shown up recently in New Mexico, California, and Colorado, though it’s still rare. Antibiotics can take care of it, but it can be life-threatening if it’s not treated early enough. It’s carried by rodents, like squirrels and mice, and the fleas that live on them.


Diseases: Tuberculosis (TB)

Around the world, TB causes half the deaths it did in 1990. Even so, it still ranks right up there with HIV in terms of lives lost worldwide. And the fight against it is getting a lot harder because the antibiotics used to treat TB don’t work on some newer types of it. Much research still to be done.


Diseases: Syphilis and Chlamydia

Antibiotics, over prescribed, don’t work as well as they used to. Syphilis was almost gone from the U.S., but it’s back at its highest rate in 20 years. And chlamydia, the most common STD, is getting harder to treat, too.


Diseases: Scarlet Fever

Again, more people are getting this because the bacteria has changed just enough that antibiotics don’t work as well against it. Caused by the same bacteria as strep throat, this one’s usually mild. It mostly affects kids ages 5 to 15, giving them a rough, red rash that feels like sandpaper. But if it’s not treated, it can lead to issues like heart or kidney problems.




Diseases: Measles

Measles can be life threatening. There were eight outbreaks of this disease in the U.S. in 2013, including the largest since 1996. People who aren’t vaccinated against it have the highest chances of getting it. You know the measles by the telltale rash: red spots that start on your face and spread down your body. Kids under 5 and adults over 20 are more likely to have serious health problems because of it, like pneumonia or swelling of the brain.


Diseases: Mumps

Most people in the U.S. have been vaccinated against this, but outbreaks still pop up. In 2009 an outbreak in the Northeast affected more than 3,000 people. It can cause fever, headache, and tiredness. But the main symptom is pain and swelling in your jaw and cheek in front of your ears. In rare cases, it can also lead to swelling in the brain.


Diseases: Whooping Cough

Also called pertussis, this gives you severe coughing fits. When you try to catch your breath after one of those, you make a whooping sound. More than 48,000 people in the U.S. had it in 2012, the most since 1955. It can last 10 weeks or more and spreads easily from one person to another. It’s serious at any age but life-threatening for babies, who often need treatment in a hospital. The best way to prevent it is to get the vaccine.


Diseases: Legionnaires’ Disease

This one has been on the rise on the rise in recent years. It’s a lung infection that comes from breathing in tiny water droplets that have legionella bacteria. It starts with flu-like symptoms, but soon becomes a cough that doesn’t go away. It also comes with chest pains and trouble breathing. Antibiotics can cure it, but it can lead to serious issues if it’s not treated, especially for the elderly.


Diseases: Leprosy

Yes, the disease that was common during Biblical times is still around. Now called Hansen’s disease, this illness is caused by bacteria that attack your nerves. And it’s not just a disease of the distant past. Each year, about 250,000 people around the world got it (150 to 250 in the U.S.). It can lead to serious issues, like paralysis of the hands and feet.


Diseases: Polio

Polio still exists in several countries outside the U.S. That’s partly because it’s not always easy to tell that someone has it. In places where not everyone gets the vaccine, it can spread before doctors have a chance to contain it. Because polio affects your brain, it can be life-threatening or cause long-term problems, like paralysis.


Disease: Gout

Another disease from Middle Ages, gout is a form of very painful arthritis. But it’s been making a comeback and doctors think it has a lot to do with bigger waistlines. Being very overweight doubles the chances of getting it. And high blood pressure also contributes to its onset. Gout often starts with serious pain in the big toe, but can begin in any joint, like the knee or elbow.


Diseases: Rickets

Have you ever heard of ricketts? It’s an oldtimer, but making a comeback. Caused by a lack of vitamin D, this leads to soft bones. The uptick in recent years partly comes from two causes: breastfeeding only and fear of skin cancer. Breast milk doesn’t have much vitamin D, and concerns about skin cancer can mean people spend less time outside. That can be a problem because sunlight helps your body make vitamin D.


Disease: Scurvy

An old-time sailor’s disease that was solved with limes? Not quite. Scurvy is still with us today.  It’s caused by a serious lack of vitamin C, and it makes gums bleed and teeth fall out. It is most common in people who don’t eat fruits and vegetables, the elderly, alcoholics, and men who live alone. Scurvy can be easily treated with vitamin C supplements.

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Barry G

Barry graduated from City University of New York and holds a Ph.D. in Physiological Psychology.

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