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Most dangerous countries from diseases for US travelers named

African nations ranked top hotspots for disease outbreaks

Most dangerous countries from diseases for US travelers named
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Research has revealed which countries pose the greatest threat to the American travelers from diseases.

Data1 from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows the worst countries for disease outbreaks, with a number of hotspots revealed across the world alongside the threat of COVID-19.

The study, Wrath of Diseases, delves into 24 years and more than 2,800 disease outbreaks to reveal the most common infectious diseases and the countries that pose the biggest threats.

High Risk Countries

Data shows that six of the top 10 countries which have the highest number of outbreaks are in Africa, with a combined 1,060 outbreaks happening in the continent over the last three decades.

The WHO defines an outbreak as the occurrence of disease cases over normal expectancy caused by an infection, transmitted through person-to-person contact, animal-to-person contact, or from the environment or other media2 .

The country with the highest risk is the Democratic Republic of Congo, with 242 outbreaks recorded in the African nation since 1996. Throughout 2020, as well as dealing with the threat of Covid-19, DR Congo has battled 110 cases of Ebola which has led to 47 deaths. 

China, which reported the first instance of Covid-19, has seen 184 outbreaks in the last 24 years, followed by Indonesia (147 outbreaks), Egypt (114 outbreaks), and Uganda (77 outbreaks) also making up the top five countries.

Ranked at number eight, the US has had 52 reported outbreaks since 1996, with more outbreaks reported than neighboring countries, Canada (21 outbreaks) and Mexico (9 outbreaks).

Table of most dangerous countries:

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The data also reveals that there are 26 countries that have only had one outbreak in the past three decades with the Caribbean ranked as one of the safest areas in the world.

The six luxury destinations of Barbados, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia, St Martin, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago have seen only one disease outbreak each since 1996.

Global Recurring Outbreaks

While outbreaks in the US are actually ranked as some of the most common around the globe, thankfully some of the more widespread and lethal outbreaks are less likely to be found in America and its neighbouring countries.

Across the globe, the most frequent outbreak in the last 24 years has been Avian influenza which has seen 607 outbreaks. This is followed by Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERs) with 298 outbreaks, Ebola (295), Cholera (279), and Yellow Fever (167).


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Most Common US Outbreaks

The research also provides a breakdown of which outbreaks have been the most prominent in the US over the three decades.

Anthrax has been the most common outbreak across the nation with 16 registered incidences, the US reported an outbreak in 2001 which resulted in five deaths among 23 cases.  Anthrax is a disease caused by a bacterium (Bacillus anthracis) and people can get sick with anthrax after encountering infected animals or animal products. It has also been associated with acts of bioterrorism via contaminated mail.

The second most common is West Nile disease which has seen 11 outbreaks across the country and, in 2002, was responsible for 211 deaths with 3,587 cases across 39 states. This is followed by Swine Flu with four outbreaks, Zika Virus (3), and St Louis Encephalitis (2).

Important reasons to note for these global outbreaks include climate change, for example, extreme weather events such as storms and floods are often followed by an increase in infectious diseases. 

Outbreaks of diarrheal and respiratory illnesses can occur when access to clean water and sewage systems are disrupted and people are living in crowded conditions. 

A temperature rise may also increase the spread of vector-borne infections such as malaria, dengue, Zika, and yellow fever. Other factors such as urbanization, population growth and an increase in antimicrobial resistance will also impact the spike in outbreaks arising.

Certain areas of the world are also experiencing rapid population growth. For example, the population of Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, is increasing at a rate of 2.65% per year—more than twice the highest rate of population growth experienced by high-income countries since the 1950s.

Rapidly growing populations may increase the risk of infection due to poor sanitation, high population density and limited healthcare access.

It is very difficult to predict, however it is likely that new diseases will continue to emerge. The greatest challenge may be anticipating the next new infection and the difficulty in containing the spread of these infections.

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