Covid, TB and Syphilis! What’s the connection?
Focusing on the Covid pandemic the last few years has resulted in the global healthcare community paying a little less attention to other common infectious diseases.
Tuberculosis is still alive and well! In fact, it is the leading infection worldwide and causes the most deaths of any infection with over 10 million people a year getting sick and over 1.6 million dying in 2021. Covid-19 took over for a bit, but TB is back on top. And although about 30 countries, all low income and poor, account for the vast majority of TB cases, it does pop up occasionally here in the US. In fact, there is a small outbreak in Kansas right now.
Diarrheal diseases are among the most common causes of death, especially in children. Not surprisingly, the majority of cases occur in those same 30 poorer countries. In 2019 around 1.5 million people died from diarrheal diseases. Around half a million of these deaths were among children. Sadly about 1/3rd of the world’s population lives in areas with lack of access to clean water. That is 2.34 billion people who can’t just turn on the tap or go to the nearest store to get some drinking water. And we kick and scream over people in the entertainment industry not making enough money? Perspective and gratitude is sorely lacking in our society.
As an FYI, the absolute leading cause of death overall worldwide is cardiovascular disease. And this can be prevented or in most cases reversed with a healthy, plant-based diet and other good lifestyle measures like continuous movement and daily exercise, proper sleep, stress management and good social support.
Another Covid related issue is diversion of healthcare funds. The Covid pandemic has caused so much disease and has soaked up so many resources that there is a shortage in infrastructure to deal with TB. The estimate is that there are more than 4 million undiagnosed cases out there right now. And the rise of multidrug resistant TB is not helping much.
As far as SYPHILIS goes, in 2021, there were over 177,000 cases diagnosed in the US. This is the highest level since 1948! Congenital syphilis caused 220 stillbirths in the US in 2021. Congenital syphilis is when an infected pregnant mother transmits the disease to their developing fetus.
In addition, the most important antibiotic (penicillin) used to treat congenital syphilis is in extreme shortage. This shortage is also impacted by the fact that 80% of the antibiotics produced worldwide go to feeding, preventatively treating animals and promoting growth (yes, antibiotics stimulate muscle growth). Chicken is the biggest culprit. Studies have shown that within only 3 days of eating a mostly meat diet, antibiotic resistance in the gut microbiome of human subjects starts to develop.
POLIO, which had a small resurgence in a few NY state townships 2 summers ago, also still has a worldwide presence. In 2022, there were over 900 polio cases, significant for a disease most people thought was eradicated. Add to that the fact that many infections go undiagnosed until nerve problems develop decades later, polio becomes a persistent infection of concern.
With respect to COVID-19, new cases and hospitalizations due to Covid continue to rise steadily but fortunately, ICU admissions only slightly up and deaths remain plateaued, presently ~ 200 a day, or 70,000 a year, and again, comparable to the worst flu season in decades! Nothing to sneeze at (pardon the pun).
There is continued concern for long-haul Covid disease. There is a prevalent feeling in the population that if you had an unremarkable previous Covid infection that your body can handle it and long-haul symptoms are unlikely. That would be WRONG! In fact, second or third infections pose an even greater risk of such prolonged problems.
The CDC has just approved the newest Covid-19 booster for everyone over 6 months of age. I would urge everyone to get either the first series, if not yet vaccinated, or the booster, if it has been over 6 months since your last booster or active infection. It is fine to get it along with the flu vaccine simultaneously. There is no issue.
Just as I was feeling comfortable in crowds, I am now starting to feel less comfortable. I have not yet progressed to wearing a mask indoors, but have certainly given second thought to meetings and events I am planning on attending in the next few months. Airtravel will definitely be masked.
As we head into the cold and flu season, it’s important to be careful and respectful of others. A relative of mine was recently on a trip and was guilted and ridiculed for wearing a mask. They let down their guard and sadly, they got Covid. Fortunately, it was a mild case and they’ve recovered. The point is, if you don’t feel comfortable and want to wear a mask, do it. If you don’t want to wear a mask, don’t, but consider it, not for you, but for everyone else around you, especially if you’ve recently been exposed or have any symptoms suggesting ANY kind of infection. Or just stay away and don’t risk getting others sick.
In the meantime, keep working on improving your overall health. It’s your best defense.
Have a great weekend. Hopefully you’re somewhere with family and friends and out of the rain.
Stay safe and be well.