By Sophie Ainsworth, Indra Ventura and Caitlin Spora
If you're shocked about the sudden Coronavirus epidemic, you may also be surprised to hear that there have been outbreaks of various diseases every year this decade. Yet, so many of these outbreaks are not even televised or given much media attention in Australia, possibly as many are situated in developing areas. Below is a timeline of outbreaks over the past decade. Each containing some general information about what each disease is, and how it spread.
2010 Japan Foot and mouth outbreak
In 2010, Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) occurred for the first time in a decade in Japan. The initial spread of the disease was detected on a beef-breeding farm in Miyazaki Prefecture, Southern Japan, on April 20, 2010. After confirmation of this disease, control measures were implemented such as stamping out, movement restriction and disinfection. However, these strategies proved insufficient to prevent the spread and emergency vaccination was implemented. In the outbreak on July 4, 2010, a total of 292 outbreaks had been confirmed, with about 290,000 animals culled. The epidemic occurred in an area with a high density of cattle and pigs, making disease control difficult. The epidemic was eventually contained within the Miyazaki Prefecture and was eradicated within three months because of intensive control efforts.
2011 Dengue outbreak in Pakistan
Dengue is a widespread mosquito-borne infection in human beings, which in recent years has become a major international public health concern. Dengue fever is a growingly threatening infectious disease within Pakistan as there are more frequent epidemics emerging. Despite the efforts of the Pakistani Government, the high cost of prevention has limited the ability of Pakistan to control epidemics. In Pakistan, in the summer of 2011, more than 300 people died of Dengue fever. The prevalence of the disease was over 14,000.
Prevention : Mosquito (vector transmission) control is implemented using environmental management and chemical methods. Proper solid waste disposal and improved water storage practices, including covering containers to prevent access by egg laying female mosquitoes, are encouraged through community-based programs.
2012 Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus outbreak
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome . Approximately 35% of reported patients with MERS-CoV infection have died. Although most human cases of MERS-CoV infections have been due to human-to-human infections in health care settings, current scientific evidence demonstrates that dromedary camels are a major reservoir host for MERS-CoV. However, the exact role of dromedaries in transmission of the virus and the exact route or routes of transmission are unknown. Approximately 80% of human cases have been reported by Saudi Arabia. What we know is that people get infected there through unprotected contact with infected dromedary camels or infected people.
No vaccine or specific treatment is currently available, however several MERS-CoV specific vaccines and treatments are in development. Treatment is supportive and based on the patient’s clinical condition. As a general precaution, anyone visiting farms, markets, barns, or other places where dromedary camels and other animals are present should practice general hygiene measures, including regular hand washing before and after touching animals, and should avoid contact with sick animals.
2013 Ebola outbreak -
Ebola is a disease that creates problems with how your blood clots. It is known as a hemorrhagic fever virus because the clotting problems lead to internal bleeding, as blood leaks from small blood vessels in your body. The virus also causes inflammation and tissue damage.
2013 - 49 cases met the case definition for EVD, with 111 clinically suspected cases and 79 deaths attributed to EVD on the basis of clinical symptoms
Early diagnosis is essential in order to initiate treatment and institute strict infection control.
There are no approved therapies and management is largely supportive. Maintaining fluid balance with electrolyte replenishment, empirical antibiotics and antidiarrheal agents are important. The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and vitamin K remains contentious. Different protocols exist across different settings and organizations.
2014 Zika virus outbreaks in Oceania
In February 2014, an outbreak of Zika was reported in the Cook Islands ( located in the Pacific Ocean). Zika is a mosquito-borne disease that has no vaccine or any effective treatment method. By the end of February 2014, it was estimated 29,000 people with Zika-like symptoms sought medical care yet there were only 8,503 suspected cases which is roughly 11.5% of the population. Of 746 samples tested in Tahiti by, 396 (53.1%) were confirmed as containing the Zika virus by RT-PCR. Two further cases of Zika virus infection were discovered in Japan yet this was from a traveler from Tahiti who had contracted the infection. By March 2014, the outbreak was declining in the majority of the islands, and by October the outbreak had subsided due to some treatments and the prevention of mosquito bites (through repellant and long clothing) . The true number of Zika cases was estimated at more than 30,000.
2015 Indian swine flu outbreak
In 2015 there was an Indian swine flu outbreak similar to that of the outbreak in 2009. Swine Flu is a strain of Influenza A virus which has emerged due to a mutation in the Influenza virus. India reported 937 cases and 218 deaths from swine flu by the end of 2014 and by mid-february the cases and deaths had surpassed 218 to 700. Additionally, the cases had increased to more than 11,000 and were spreading due to the lack of medical assistance and quarantine.
Influenza vaccination is most effective when circulating viruses are well matched with vaccine viruses. In India, as the risk groups are not clearly identified, only healthcare workers working in close proximity to influenza patients were recommended to receive the H1N1 vaccine during the 2015 outbreak.
2016 Yemen cholera outbreak
Beginning in October 2016, Yemen has been facing an ongoing issue with outbreaks of Cholera. As of October 2018, there have been more than 1.2 million cases reported, and 2,500 people (58% children) have died from the outbreak, causing the United Nations to deem it the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
Cholera is a water-borne disease, making countries with limited access to ‘uncontaminated’ water the most susceptible to major outbreaks. The cholera outbreak has continued to worsen due to the ongoing civil war and the Saudi Arabian intervention in this conflict. Airstrikes damaged hospital infrastructure,water supply and sanitation in Yemen, and the government stopped public health funding.
Cholera can be treated by the use of the oral cholera vaccine (OCV) which in 2018 was delivered to 540,000 individuals- ultimately reducing the exceedingly high amount of cases.
Cases 2019 = 2,236,570
2017 South African listeriosis outbreak
In 2017, South Africa had a widespread outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes (a type of food poisoning) that resulted from contaminated processed meats produced by Enterprise Foods. Overall, out of the 1,060 confirmed cases, with around 216 deaths, the outbreak was the world’s worst-ever recorded of its type.
To prevent the spread to others the South African Government placed a recall of all the products with the chance of contamination, which were then destroyed by thermal treatment or landfill, and there was a review of the Food Safety Regulation to prevent this from happening again
Cases 2017 = 1,060
2019-20 Philippines polio outbreak
For 19 years, the Philippines had no polio-related diseases, but in 2019 the disease began to resurface again with a 3-year-old girl being found positive to infection. It was confirmed on September 19, 2019, that the Philippines was facing a polio outbreak due to being a “vaccine-derived poliovirus,” as a result of poor healthcare systems and unhygienic living conditions. As a result of the increasing cases, there was a mass vaccination effort conducted by the Philippine Red Cross where they vaccinated around 65,000 children.
Cases = 2 currently reported
2019-20 Wuhan coronavirus outbreak
Currently, there is an ongoing outbreak of 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease caused by the Coronavirus which is present in around 30 countries. The Chinese Authorities have expressed through their reports that 1,800 people have died from the virus with more than 70,000 infected in China. The coronavirus can be transmitted from the direct-contact of human to human transmission which is why many people are being placed in quarantine as the virus does not display symptoms from 2-14 days following infection (the incubation period). Currently, there are no vaccines or specific treatments as the virus’ is quite complex and can vary in strain.
As of 17 February 2020, 71,355 cases have been confirmed (released by Chinese authorities).
Ultimately, each day scientists are working on developing more treatments to not only help those infected but also to provide insights into the causes of diseases and their impacts on society.
Overall, the determining factor of these outbreaks’ impact is international health organisations, and their ability to quarantine, vaccinate and improve hygiene in affected areas. Living in a country with healthcare and access to vaccinations and clean water is a privilege that we should not take for granted.