Diseases that are spread from one person to another either directly or indirectly are referred to as communicable diseases (Krause, 2008, p. 1). These diseases are caused by germs which are in the form of either bacteria or virus. Therefore, a communicable disease is an illness that arises from transmission of an infectious agent or toxic product from an infected person, reservoir or animal to a susceptible host in either a direct or indirect way through an intermediary organism, the host (TJH, IFRC & RCS, 2010, p. 285).
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The communicable diseases involve dealing with a myriad number of pathogens while preventing or controlling their infectious nature and levels since every pathogen posses a certain level of threat to the public (Krause, 2008, p. 1). There is the need to allocate limited and available resources for research, surveillance, vaccines and other varying activities which in return requires a necessity to give priority to some of the communicable diseases over others.
It is therefore inevitable for the public health experts not to give more priority to some of these diseases over others. For instance, a case where there is an outbreak of small pox or Ebola there is a great need to circumvent these diseases because they are very contagious and their health threat levels are a bit on at high levels as opposed to such diseases as Common Flu.
In case of Ebola, the infected ones have to be taken into solitary confinement because the disease posses a greater health risk both in terms of level of spreading because it is both water and air borne and upon infection, the patient may suffer death within 48 hours (WHO, 2004, p. 6).
The other reason as to why the communicable diseases differ in terms of priority is as a result of natural or man-made disasters such as earthquakes or floods and civil wars respectively. Upon such calamities, priority deems to change.
For instance, in case of floods, there is a likelihood of outbreak of waterborne diseases such as cholera while incase of war, there is a likelihood of increased refugees in neighboring countries who may suffer malnutrition and are susceptible to both air and water borne infections (TJH, IFRC & RCS, 2010, p. 288). Cross border immigration also gives rise to infectious diseases like SARS (WHO, 2004, p. 12).
Hence, there is a need to prioritize the control and prevention levels for these diseases upon the occurrence of the calamities.
The Priority levels among communicable infections are normally classified in terms of the likelihood of disease outbreaks during the occurrence of natural disasters (hurricanes and drought) or man-made disasters (civil wars). Such considerations call for timely, effective and coordinated measures (TJH, IFRC & RCS, 2010, p. 371).
Some of the compelling issues that public health experts consider when it comes to outbreaks and the priority levels of communicable diseases are: the change of disease patterns ( malaria and yellow fever), change of vulnerability levels such as increased immigrations or urbanization which may give rise to outbreak of diseases like SARS, and Ebola, further increased spread of neglected diseases (Cholera, Guinea worm, leprosy), high morbidity as well as mortality from delayed epidemic detections and response (diseases like dysentery, meningitis), emergence and spread of new pathogens as well as diseases (Nipah, bird flu and SARS) and persistence of diseases that are targeted for eradication purposes like polio.
Although effective prioritization may be hindered due to varying factors like lack of a definite measurable criterion for the importance of a disease in terms of health public and also due to lack of adequate data on the cycle and prevalence rates of some pathogens (Krause, 2008, p. 1).
The level of inadequate predictions of natural disasters as well as man-made disasters can hamper the prioritization levels as well. Therefore, there is a need for public experts to be equipped in terms of preventive and control strategies of such communicable diseases so as to effectively deal with them as they arise thus arresting them on a timely manner.
Krause, G. (2008). How can infectious diseases be prioritized in public health? Robert Koch Institute: Science & Society. EMBO reports (2008) 9, S22 – S27. Retrieved from http://embor.embopress.org/content/9/1S/S22
The Johns Hopkins (TJH) & International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) and Red Crescent Societies (RCS). (2010). Control of Communicable Diseases: Public Health Guide for Emergencies. John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. P: 284-371. Retrieved from https://www.jhsph.edu/
World Health Organization (WHO). (2004). Cross-Border Control of Priority Communicable Diseases. Regional Office for South-East Asia: New Delhi. P: 1 – 18. Web.