(CNN) — A pandemic isn’t just a disease. It’s also a harbinger of doom.
Almost 13,000 people died in pandemics in 2017, according to the World Health Organization, and several ongoing crises in emerging countries are causing fever.
For one, the rapidly increasing number of deaths from cholera is haunting. Cholera, which can be deadly and is extremely contagious, is “killing people at a rate more than five times faster than it is being reported,” according to the WHO.
The problem is that many of these diseases don’t usually make headlines. You wouldn’t think that smog in China, flushing toilets in India or lethal dengue are worthy issues to raise awareness about in the lead-up to the World Health Organization’s annual Marrakesh meeting, but these are issues that are devastating people and affecting entire communities.
“What happened in 1962 with the Ebola outbreak was that my grandfather became a father figure in the community,” David Rowan, grandson of Dr. Charles Rowan, said in a statement.
Charles Rowan, who grew up on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, died in 2014, an estimated seven years earlier than he should have due to the failure of an order in treating his cholera. The fate of thousands of people may have been different if Dr. Rowan, himself, had been allowed to treat his patients.
David Rowan said his grandfather did emergency care in remote places where people couldn’t afford to seek medical care. If they didn’t, the only way they could receive care was if the doctor called them and an ambulance transported them for free.
Many of these people didn’t have access to medical supplies or antibiotics, according to WHO. It’s because of these breakdowns in health care that the cholera outbreak has worsened.
“He had seen a lot of people with abdominal distension — that is, a shape that the body gives away when the guts start to fill up with mucus and water. It’s an indicator of cholera,” Davina Holder, widow of Rowan’s longtime secretary, said in a statement. “But if you go to his old clinic, you find people without surgery, without antibiotics.”
Cholera cases jumped in the second half of 2017 and nearly tripled in December alone, according to the WHO. A reservoir of disease across the tropics and sub-tropics is being fueled by people passing contaminated water and food to one another and by unregulated sewage and runoff, it said.
Another outbreak causing distress is Dengue fever. The disease, which causes high fever, muscle aches and headaches, is rampant in parts of Central and South America. Deaths from Dengue in 2017 increased by 150% from the previous year, according to WHO.
More than 20 countries are affected by the virus, but some are hardest hit: