Certain diseases that were once thought almost eradicated are now making a resurgence. But why is this the case and how can we defend against them?
Human behaviour is a primary cause of disease resurgence. For instance, some diseases spread due to poor sanitation standards or a breakdown of public health measures. We also can’t discount the impact of ideologies such as the anti-vax movement, which puts people at risk of catching diseases that they otherwise would’ve been protected against.
What’s particularly concerning is that vaccine refusal is on the rise. While there are no solid UK figures of how many people are now refusing to have their children vaccinated, there is evidence to suggest that more and more parents are failing to fulfil this step before sending their children to school, for example.1
So, what are some of the diseases making a comeback?
Recent years have seen the numbers of measles cases fluctuate. The UK has reached elimination status for measles a number of times (most recently in 2017), but since then, vaccination rates have dropped and cases are once again emerging.2
Measles is highly contagious and is transmitted via people breathing in respiratory droplets that are expelled when a person coughs, sneezes or speaks. These droplets can also settle on surfaces, and if touched by an uninfected person may be transmitted via this route, too.3
At the end of 2022 and during January 2023, scarlet fever infections in the UK hit an alarming high.4 During this time, over 38,400 cases were recorded across the nation – the biggest peak in the disease since similar, but smaller figures, in 2017.5
Much like measles, scarlet fever is a highly contagious disease. Infectious pathogens are transmitted via contact with saliva and mucus from an infected individual, meaning that this disease quickly spreads and is easily picked up via surface transmission.
Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
Though this is a disease seemingly more at home in a Charles Dickens novel than in the modern world, cases of whooping cough are once again steadily on the rise. BUPA reports that the most recent peak in cases was in 2012, but cases are still widespread and there are still breakouts of the disease in communities despite there being a vaccine available.
Much like the other diseases mentioned in this piece, whooping cough is also transmitted via respiratory droplets, meaning that it can be spread via airborne transmission as well as picked up by hands-off surfaces.
Hand hygiene makes a huge difference
Practising a high standard of hand hygiene has been proven to help reduce infection by respiratory illnesses such as those listed above by as much as 25%.6 In order to support patients and staff with their hand hygiene, it’s essential to make available good-quality hand soap in washrooms that can kill pathogens, as well as working sinks that provide warm water.
You can supplement your hand hygiene measures in your setting by installing hand sanitiser stations in any high-footfall areas. UltraProtect™ Hand Sanitiser from Initial Medical is the perfect solution. Able to destroy 99.99% of pathogens, the formula is alcohol-free and kind to skin, making it safe for repeated use throughout the day. Additionally, it offers long-lasting defence against pathogens, protecting hands for 8 hours as long as the product isn’t washed away.
1 GOV.UK. Around 1 in 10 children starting school at risk of measles. Link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/around-1-in-10-children-starting-school-at-risk-of-measles [Last accessed February 23].
2 Gov.uk UK measles and rubella elimination indicators and status. Link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/measles-and-rubella-elimination-uk/uk-measles-and-rubella-elimination [Last accessed February 23].
3 World Health Organization. Measles. Link: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/measles?gclid=CjwKCAiA85efBhBbEiwAD7oLQITDZ0M2RUOweLIhU1iLod4UXB88VI_E7GJzr639wG4m7jCVb14T0xoCFV0QAvD_BwE [Last accessed February 23].
4 Gov.uk. UKHSA update on scarlet fever and invasive group A strep. Link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/ukhsa-update-on-scarlet-fever-and-invasive-group-a-strep-1#:~:text=Thursday%2029%20December%202022,seen%20in%20a%20typical%20year. [Last accessed February 23].
5 Gov.uk. UKHSA update on scarlet fever and invasive group A strep. Link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/ukhsa-update-on-scarlet-fever-and-invasive-group-a-strep-1#:~:text=Thursday%2029%20December%202022,seen%20in%20a%20typical%20year. [Last accessed February 23].
6 The Global Handwashing Partnership. Why Handwashing. Link: https://globalhandwashing.org/about-handwashing/why-handwashing/health/#:~:text=Handwashing%20reduces%20the%20rate%20of,rate%20by%20up%20to%2025%25. [Last accessed February 23].