Resurgence of Ancient Ailments: Eco-Impact on UK Health


“Victorian era” diseases are on the rise across the Channel. Health professionals are warning in particular of poverty and malnutrition which are increasing in the country.
Diseases of the past that many believe have been forgotten. However, many of them continue to persist around the world and some are even increasing. This is particularly the case in the United Kingdom where health professionals are warning of a resurgence of “Victorian era diseases”, i.e. diseases which wreaked havoc particularly during the 19th century.

Poverty, malnutrition, less fear of AIDS, vaccine distrust… The causes of these increases are multiple. If, to The Times, Dr Clare Gerada, president of the royal college of general practitioners, assures that “we will not end up like the Victorians” because we now have effective drugs, the situation is worrying.

A significant increase
Since the Covid-19 health crisis, the number of Britons suffering from scabies has increased sharply. This disease, caused by mites, causes severe itching, lesions and sleep disturbances.

According to the Royal College of General Practitioners, the number of cases of scabies is currently three per 100,000 people in England, double the five-year average. In the north of the region, this rate rises to six per 100,000, indicates The Guardian.

The British daily also reports that cases of rickets, a disease caused by lack of sunlight and vitamin D, are on the rise, as are cases of scurvy, linked to insufficient consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables, leading to vitamin C deficiency. .

Scurvy can cause extreme fatigue, bleeding gums, tooth loss, joint pain or impaired healing, while rickets affects bone development.

Poverty and malnutrition to blame
These two ancient diseases are indicators of malnutrition. In England, hospitalizations for this reason are four times higher today than 12 years ago. According to The Times, one in six people in the UK were “in relative poverty” in 2021-2022.

In the past, scurvy particularly affected sailors who spent months at sea without eating any fruits or vegetables. Nowadays, health professionals point out the growing difficulties of the population in having a good diet.

Additionally, obesity is also a signal of malnutrition. Most obese children are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D “because they’re not getting the right calories,” says Clare Gerada, and therefore to suffer from rickets.

In The Guardian, Sir Michael Marmot, director of the Institute for Health Equity at the University of London, affirms that the resurgence of these pathologies reflects poverty but also budget cuts in public services. Indeed, for scabies for example, the shortage of drugs prevents the progression of the disease from being slowed.

Other diseases on the rise

Another cause for concern: cases of measles which are exploding. According to the British Health Security Agency, there will be four times more of them in 2023 than in 2021. This trend is partly due to increasing vaccine reluctance, particularly since Covid-19.

British health authorities also point to fatigue with childhood vaccination schedules and the difficulty of accessing vaccines, in particular due to a lack of health professionals across the country.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that this disease could be eradicated through vaccination, 95% vaccination coverage is required to prevent it from circulating. In Hackney, east London, the figure is just 56%. In Northern Ireland, reports The Express, a catch-up vaccination program is currently underway.

Other diseases are also on the rise across the Channel, such as STIs (sexually transmitted infections) such as syphilis and gonorrhea. The cause is very long waiting times for a screening and then treatment appointment, but also fewer precautions taken by the population, who, for example, fear AIDS less than before.

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