Neglected tropical diseases are defined as a diverse group of contagious diseases that affect the lives of people living in tropical and subtropical environments. There are 149 countries that fall into those two categories. More than a billion people are infected with contagious diseases every year. The cost of treating neglected tropical diseases is billions of dollars, according to the former Medical Director of State Health Ministry in Rio de Janeiro, Dr. Sergio Cortes. Dr. Cortes has been on the front lines of several of those neglected tropical diseases in the North and Northeastern regions of Brazil. Dr. Cortes believes Brazil is trying to eradicate some of those diseases, but due to the complexity that exists in the eradication process, it’s a slow endeavor.
People living in the poor areas of Brazil are most affected by neglected tropical diseases, according to a post on the Dr. Cortes website. Thousands of Brazilians are still infected with dengue and chikungunya in cities like Recife, Rio, Sao Paulo and Salvador every year. There isn’t a vaccine for dengue, but a Dr. Cortes tweet said a dengue vaccine is in the testing stage.
Dr. Cortes left his position as medical director of Rio’s Ministry of Health in 2013, according to CrunchBase.com. He became the Chief Medical Officer and Executive Director of Rede D’Or São Luiz in Rio de Janeiro in 2014. But Dr. Cortes is still involved in finding ways to eradicate the neglected tropical diseases that are spread by mosquitoes. The quest to eradicate mosquito-borne diseases in areas where there is an abundance of domestic animals, livestock and unsanitary conditions is a monumental task. Dr. Corte recently told Extra.Globo.com that several public health approaches have been put in place by Brazil’s Ministry of Health. Brazil wants to eradicate the Aedes aegypti mosquito across the country, and that is an expensive and time related challenge.
The World Health Organization is also working on eradicating neglected tropical diseases in Brazil, and in the other 148 countries that are impacted by mosquito-borne illnesses. Dr. Cortes posted an article on his LinkedIn page that explains the World Health Organization’s goals of eliminating neglected tropical diseases. In 2013, the WHO adopted a resolution that calls for countries to intensify eradication programs and establish measures that can control the spread of diseases like dengue, chikungunya and malaria. According to Dr. Cortes, the Zika virus was not on the list at that time, but it is now.