India’s Covid and dengue outbreaks have raised the alarm among people and health authorities. Corona cases began to rise in India earlier this year. At the same time, other dreadful infections and viral diseases such as dengue, malaria, and monkeypox have also witnessed an upswing. While sudden cardiac arrests also hogged no less limelight than Covid.
Just as people thought the threat of Coronavirus was over, the surge of cases caused by Omicron sub-variant BF.7 in China has again alarmed public health experts and governments worldwide. Recently, three cases of this virus have been detected in India. The Central government has issued a fresh advisory to states to remain prepared for yet another wave of the deadly disease while advising people to follow Covid protocol strictly. As the year draws to a close, let’s take a look at the viral diseases that made headlines this year.
Sudden Cardiac Deaths
One disease that came to light in 2022 was sudden cardiac death, especially in young adults. According to the experts, many people lost their lives due to heart attacks, and the most common reason was post-Covid complications. Coronary artery diseases, stress, fatigue, abnormal heart beating, arrhythmia, and excessive exercise are other reasons for sudden heart attacks.
Rise In Dengue Cases
Dengue cases were rising this year across the country from other regular infections. It was earlier linked to only low platelet counts. However, this year in some patients, symptoms of raised liver enzymes, hepatitis, and fluid collection around the lungs were also reported, while high fever, headache, and muscle pain used to be the main symptoms of the disease.
Cases of Monkeypox
Monkeypox disease, which was earlier reported only in Africa, has made its way to European countries, South Africa, and Asian nations, even including India.
Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic infection that can transmit from animals to humans. It is not a dreaded disease, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it a global health emergency. The illness is uncommon yet includes symptoms like fever, cold, cough, headache, body ache, tiredness, and a big vascular rash on the skin that looks like pimples. The rash or boils generally starts from the face and then spread to other body parts, such as palms and soles.
Rise In Omicron Variant cases
This year Coronavirus cases were on the rise in different countries caused by Omicron, BA.2, and BF.7 variants. While some of these sub-variants were highly infectious, cases in India were in control and did not create much panic.
The new subvariant BF.7 is wreaking havoc in China, and 3 cases have also been found in India. This rapidly increasing virus in, one infected person can infect 10 to 18 people. According to experts, people should get vaccinated as soon as possible. Experts also suggest that the Test-Track-Treat-Vaccinate process is the most important strategy to follow to keep a check on this viral infection.
Some patients have felt the impact of coronavirus infection till weeks after they tested negative. COVID-19 impacted the various organs of the human body in different ways. These sequelae conditions are so widespread that they were referred to as the ‘silent pandemic’ by the health fraternity.
Headache, memory loss, confusion, chest ailment, and lingering cough are some of the symptoms reported by patients with Long COVID.
The impact of these conditions “often disrupts a person’s ability to engage with school, work or relationships for months at a time”, IHME experts observed in the note.
Sarah Wulf Hanson, the lead research scientist of the non-fatal and risk quality enhancement team and lead author of the JAMA paper on long COVID, said:
People with long COVID need diagnostic and proper rehabilitation support from primary care physicians. We desperately need more research to find effective treatments and preventive measures to reduce the risk of developing long COVID.”
The global burden of mental health disorders has increased in the last three decades. The pandemic years have made matters worse as people lost their loved ones and livelihoods and were confined to their homes.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine destabilized the global economy that was beginning to recover and set energy prices soaring, causing further distress to people in every corner of the globe.
Despite widespread reports of depression, anxiety, and suicides, access to mental health crisis support remains feeble. More research and capacity building is essential to bridge this gap, said IHME.
“Currently, in the GBD study, we investigate childhood sexual abuse, intimate partner violence, and bullying victimization as risk factors for mental disorders,” said Alize Ferrari, affiliate assistant professor and team lead for estimating the burden of mental disorders.
“Going forward, we need a better understanding of the other risk factors for mental disorders, how these vary across different populations, and how to offer the best opportunities for prevention at the population level,’ she added.
Climate change impact
The worsening climate has had a cascading effect on the health and well-being of the global population; heat and floods have increased disease prevalence and mental stress, among other impacts.
IHME called for more attention on minimizing the impacts on global health through adaptation or enhancing resilience. “One aspect of this is improving overall health and enhancing socioeconomic development because we know that those who are more vulnerable will suffer the most,” said Michael Brauer, affiliate professor and team lead for estimating the burden of environmental, occupational, and dietary risk factors.
“In addition, technological solutions can support adaptation, such as using drought-resistant crops, increasing vegetation in cities to reduce the urban heat island effect, or repurposing land use to adapt to rising sea levels,” he added.
The IHME expert added that swifter addressing air pollution would save lives and move the world closer to Net Zero carbon emissions.
Lower respiratory infection
Lower respiratory infections (LRI), especially respiratory syncytial virus and influenza, are health issues to watch in 2023, IHME noted.
The burden of LRIs was lower during the pandemic due to social distancing and mask mandates in every country. “With the relaxation of these measures, many young children who haven’t been exposed to RSV in the past couple of years are being infected, resulting in RSV outbreaks. Countries have also experienced a surge in influenza across all ages,” according to the organization.
Diabetes is another disease to watch for in 2023, according to Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), as its global burden is huge.
Population-based interventions such as taxes and incentives, more informative food labeling, improving the built environment to facilitate exercise and greater advocacy to inform people of the risk diabetes poses, combined with expanded health education to combat diabetes risk factors, seem the best options, the organization said.
It added that policies aimed to help avoid weight gain and improve dietary quality are also paramount.
The number of people with dementia is set to increase in the coming years as the size of the overall and aging population grows, IHME observed.
“Interventions targeting modifiable risk factors, such as low education, smoking, and high blood sugar, have the potential to reduce the overall societal burden and should be prioritized,” suggested Emma Nichols, a researcher on the BIRDS team and lead author of The Lancet Public Health paper on dementia forecasting.