Top 10 killer diseases of 2010

Millions of people have perished because of killer diseases in the last several decades. Using information from the World Health Organisation (\WHO), here are 10 killer diseases, (in no particular order) which are predicted to take over 2010

By Dr Parul R Sheth

Heart disease
Heart attack and heart related problems such as stroke and cerebrovascular disease are on the top of the list of killer diseases. The WHO statistics reveal that 31.5% women die of heart disease while the rate is 26.8% in men. Lack of physical activity, obesity, eating more fat and salt are the main culprits.

As per the 2008 World Cancer Report, the global cancer cases and deaths would double by the year 2030; 27 million people would suffer from cancer by 2030 resulting in 17 million deaths every year. Experts blame it on smoking and lifestyles including poor diet, lack of exercise.

Infectious diseases

Infectious diseases are now the world’s biggest killer of children and young adults; they lead to 16.2% of worldwide deaths. Disease-causing germs such as bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi spread diseases directly or indirectly from one person to the other - sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), HIV etc. There are others, which are transmitted from animal to person for instance bird flu, swine flu etc. In spite of a number of newer drugs being available to treat infections, these remain ineffective because of the increasing resistance of microbes to drugs.



Around 2 million people die of tuberculosis (TB) every year. The WHO figures reveal that almost one-third of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that cause tuberculosis. The disease is the main killer in people with AIDS. It spreads by coughing and sneezing.


Although BCG vaccine is used as a preventive measure against TB, the multidrug-resistant TB is on the rise. Directly Observed Therapy Short-course - DOTS - is an internationally recommended approach to TB control. The health workers closely monitor treatment to ensure that patients complete the full course of medication. The Global Plan to halt and reverse the spread of TB is an action from 2006 up until 2015.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

COPD includes lung diseases that make breathing difficult. It is estimated that by 2020 it will be the third biggest killer in the world. In the majority of cases, smoking is to be blamed for COPD. Occupational exposure to dust, air pollution and certain inherited diseases too are risk factors. The lung damage due to COPD can be slowed with lung exercises and a healthy diet.


Lower respiratory tract infections

Diseases of the lungs, such as pneumonia, kill more than 4 million people each year. The lower respiratory tract infections also include tuberculosis and whooping cough. The infections are often associated with AIDS and are more common in children under five. The U.N.-sponsored Millennium Development Goals aims at cutting global poverty and calls for a reduction in child mortality by two-thirds by 2015.



According to the latest data from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and WHO, an estimated 2.7 million people became newly infected with HIV in 2008, and 2.0 million people died of AIDS-related causes in 2008. Women have been estimated to comprise 50 per cent of adults living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. This is because of a combination of biological, social, cultural and economic factors. Young people under the age of 25 are estimated to account for more than half of all new HIV infections worldwide.


Although there is no vaccine for HIV/AIDS, the good news is that HIV-positive people can live on life-prolonging antiretroviral drugs for decades. 



Malaria, a parasitic disease, is spread by female anopheles mosquitoes. It is preventable, treatable and curable and yet it causes between 1 and 5 million deaths each year. Fortunately malaria can be prevented by using insecticides, mosquito nets and taking sanitary measures to stop the breeding of mosquitoes. Anti-malarial drugs are available to treat malaria. Governments and NGOs are working towards educating, preventing and treating the disease.



Dysentery, cholera – infection from virus, bacteria or parasitic worms cause diarrhoea. According to the WHO’s Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses, the new estimate of diarrhoea is on par with global annual deaths for malaria; it kills around 2.2 million people each year and infects around 4 billion people in a year. Most deaths occur in children particularly due to dehydration.


Since diarrhoea is spread through contaminated water and food, improvement in food safety, sanitation and hygiene are essential for its prevention. Goal number 10 of the UN - Millennium Development Goals is to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.



Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children; WHO estimates 530,000 deaths each year. The disease makes children susceptible to pneumonia and diarrhea and if left untreated can be fatal. The measles vaccine protects the child against the infection and is often incorporated with rubella and/or mumps vaccines.

Pic: alhabib

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