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Global Health Thought Leadership

Infectious Diseases: More than COVID-19

By Charles Redding, MedShare CEO & President

On January 30, 2023, the world commemorated the 4th annual Neglected Tropical Disease Day, a day designed to raise awareness and engage the general public in the urgent effort to #BeatNTDs.

The purpose of World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day is to reflect on the suffering caused by NTDs; acknowledge those who are engaged in tackling their burden and the accomplishments of the global NTD community; and gather more support towards their control, elimination, and eradication.

NTDs threaten more than 1.7 billion people living in the poorest and most marginalized communities worldwide. These diseases, many of them completely unknown to those in the US, blind, disable and disfigure people — taking  away not only their health, but their chances of staying in school, earning a living, or even being accepted by their family or community.  Some of the most destructive NTDs include:

  • Buruli ulcer
  • Chagas disease
  • Dengue and Chikungunya
  • Guinea worm disease
  • Echinococcosis
  • Foodborne trematodiases
  • Human African trypanosomiasis
  • Leishmaniasis
  • Leprosy
  • Lymphatic filariasis
  • Mycetoma, chromoblastomycosis and other deep mycoses
  • Onchocerciasis
  • Rabies
  • Scabies and other ectoparasites
  • Schistosomiasis
  • Soil-transmitted helminthiases
  • Snakebite envenoming
  • Taeniasis/Cysticercosis
  • Trachoma
  • Yaws

Source: World Health Organization

 MedShare established an Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Program (IDCPP) to bring focus to and gather support for treating these and other diseases in the developing world. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has no doubt increased global awareness of infectious diseases and the devastating impact they can have on vulnerable populations, but there is still much work to be done to ease the burden of these diseases on marginalized communities.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infectious diseases are a major challenge for human health and the leading cause of death around the world. As these outbreaks continue to affect more and more people globally, MedShare is prepared to respond where intervention is most needed.

The Challenge:

Infectious diseases are generally preventable with the consistent use of personal protective equipment in combination with general public health measures or immunologic approaches such as vaccination. History has shown that certain infectious diseases, particularly those with global health implications, can be eliminated or contained so that treatment is effective.

The Opportunity:

  • Decrease global health disparities by providing basic and critical medical supplies (gloves, masks, shoe covers, etc.) to minimize infectious disease transmission.
  • Increase capacity in local health care systems to better detect and prevent communicable disease outbreaks.
  • Strengthen global health systems to identify and prevent infectious disease outbreaks earlier and more effectively and support surveillance.
  • Improve health outcomes for patients affected by transmissible diseases.
  • Ultimately, save lives.

MedShare’s response to epidemics is swift and efficient in providing life-saving medical supplies and equipment to health care workers on the front lines, as we work closely with hospital and healthcare partners to ensure they get the critical medical supplies and equipment they need. Swift interventions result in the drastic decrease in transmission rates, allowing caregivers to treat more patients successfully.

In 2014, MedShare played a key role in combating Ebola and in rebuilding health systems in West Africa by providing $3.6 million of urgently needed medical supplies and personal protective equipment to public hospitals and clinics. I got a chance to see first-hand the impact of our work and the devastating aftermath of the Ebola outbreak when I traveled to Liberia in 2016, after the nation was declared Ebola-free. I also got the chance to witness first-hand the affliction of many of the NTDs, which had devasted the healthcare systems of these vulnerable communities.

In 2019, MedShare continued to work with our partners to send critical medical supplies and personal protective equipment to the The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to aid in addressing the healthcare challenges faced in combating Ebola outbreaks in the region. 

MedShare also participated in a partnership to strengthen and continuously care for Ebola survivors through the Center of Excellence in Vision Care at the Lowell and Ruth Gess Eye Hospital (LRGEH) in Sierra Leone. The project was led by Dr. Steven Yeh and Dr. Jessica Shantha, of the Emory Eye Clinic. They have done incredible work, finding that Ebola survivors are at risk for uveitis, or inflammation of the eye, which can lead to permanent vision loss if left untreated. They have also expanded their efforts to address many of the mental health issues that survivors experience as well.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit outside the US in late 2019, our efforts focused on supporting at-risk communities with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to help combat the spread of COVID-19. In 2020, we provided over 5.6 million units of PPE to over 240 health care institutions worldwide, many of which were here in the U.S. As part of that effort, MedShare provided critically-needed face masks, gloves, gowns, and head coverings, as well as life-saving ventilators, to nearly 5 million healthcare professionals and patients.

Our efforts continue today to provide critical PPE worldwide to communities that are still combatting this devastating disease — in some cases without the benefit of vaccinations or other protective/treatment measures.

I am always looking for a silver lining in a dark cloud. Perhaps the increased knowledge and awareness of the causes and impact of infectious diseases will lead to renewed efforts to combat the other infectious diseases that are not receiving the media attention and resources commanded by COVID-19. Working together, we can continue to support communities that lack the resources to do it alone.

 

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