Rx for Survival — A Global Health Challenge

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Deadly Diseases

Rx for Survival tells the story of some of the world's most lethal and feared diseases. The diseases profiled here explore the nature and origin of many of the diseases covered in the series, their impact on the past, present, and future and our battle to tame and eradicate them.

Diarrheal Diseases

Over the past 150 years, sanitation engineers have dramatically reduced epidemics of cholera, diarrheal dehydration, amoebic dysentery, and typhoid. Still, nearly 1.1 billion people lack access to clean drinking water.


In the 1980s, aggressive medical detective work revealed the causes of HIV/AIDS, debunking several myths about the disease and its victims. Still, people today question why it took so long to detect this silent killer.


Each year the common flu takes the lives of between 250,000 and 500,000 people worldwide. The virus mutates so rapidly that health officials must create new vaccines year after year to prevent a global epidemic. But, a vaccine against avian influenza presents special challenges.


This disease, once believed to be caused by mala aria, or "bad air," is actually spread by the female Anopheles mosquito, a dangerous parasite-carrying agent.


This disease is typically misunderstood as a lack of food. But obesity or overeating, along with vitamin and mineral deficiencies, can lead to malnutrition, or "bad" eating.


The world's most contagious disease can be prevented by a vaccine that costs a mere 26 cents per dose.


Memorialized in the writings of John Donne and children's songs like "Ring Around the Rosy," the plague seems like a disease of a distant century. Today, there are only a few cases of plague worldwide. Its potential for use as a bioterror weapon, however, is the subject of global concern.


It kills more people in the United States than any other infectious disease, and it is one of the leading causes of death in children under 5 worldwide.


Global eradication campaigns have triumphantly reduced this crippling illness to a marginal world disease. Still, it has proven a stubbornly difficult disease to defeat. The World Health Organization hopes to eradicate this disease by 2007, but localized outbreaks are challenging this goal.


Of all the diseases suffered by humans, it's the only one to be completely eradicated from the face of the Earth. This success was made possible in large part because smallpox is a uniquely human disease that has no known animal or insects carriers.


An ancient bacterial disease, tuberculosis has been found in the skulls and spinal cords of Egyptian mummies some 3,000 years old. Today it infects one new person every second and is the world's leading killer of women.

West Nile Virus

There is no approved vaccine or treatment available for this relatively new disease. The best public health officials can do is control West Nile carriers — the mosquitoes that transmit the virus from birds to humans.

Get Involved

Explore four ways you can fight deadly diseases around the world. Rx for Child Survival.