What Medical Science Is Up Against
DURING the 1970’s the United States, through the National Institutes of Health, poured more than $20 billion into disease research, a third of it for cancer. The result? In 1978 the American Cancer Society issued a grim warning that during the past 25 years lung cancer had increased some 200 percent, due mainly, it was believed, to the use of cigarettes. Here was a dramatic example of one of the things that medical science is up against. Human life-styles were producing bigger problems than medical science could handle.
“The cause is not known.” That sentence, which ended many of the reports at the end of the $20-billion crusade, highlighted another of the obstacles facing medical science. Multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, even the common cold, still would not give up their secrets. The fight against some infectious diseases was generally gaining ground, although even here problems were being encountered owing to overuse or misuse of antibiotics.
And then there were the professional casualties adding to the problems of doctors. For example, serum hepatitis has increased greatly through an “increased use of blood transfusions in hospitals and the mounting tide of drug abuse in the streets,” according to U.S.News & World Report.
U.S.News & World Report also stated: “Venereal disease, once thought conquered, is making a frightening comeback.” Other reports bear this out. The CDC reported a 33.4-percent increase in syphilis cases in the United States in 1980. The New York Times reported that gonorrhea was the most common bacterial disease of humans. “There are an estimated 100 million cases each year throughout the world.”
However, The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that another venereal disease, caused by what are called chlamydial infections and very difficult to diagnose, is “about 50% more common than gonorrhea.” And the threat of genital herpes, currently considered incurable, is sending shock waves through the swinging community. People’s life-styles surely pose problems for doctors as they pursue their goal of eliminating sickness from our planet.
In Other Areas of Our Planet
In Western Europe there is about one doctor for every 500 people. Yet, even where the situation is most ideal, people’s life-styles are turning the scientists’ dream of ridding the earth of disease into frustration. But what about countries where most people are so poor that they seldom see a doctor? Well, scientists have had successes there too. The effects of the conquest of smallpox were largely felt in the poorer countries.
But victories are few, and frustrations abound. In the huge continent of Africa, where 80 percent of the people live in the rurals and many live under the shadow of political instability, too many health projects get started and too few ever get carried out, according to the World Health Organization. With about one doctor for every 5,000 population, and with millions suffering from malnutrition, poverty, ignorance and superstitions, not even massive international relief efforts stave off Africa’s greatest enemy, disease.
Some 100 million Africans are afflicted with malaria, and about one fourth of the continent’s populace are afflicted with sleeping sickness. Ten million in one region are threatened by river blindness, which is transmitted by the buffalo gnat; at least 1.7 million suffer from leprosy and many suffer from cholera. Polio, cerebrospinal meningitis, tuberculosis, bubonic plague, measles, schistosomiasis and other afflictions combine with other diseases to wipe out half the children under age five, along with millions in other age groups.
Starting Causes out of Control
Whether in an advanced or a less developed country, medical science is simply up against more than it can cope with. The basic causes are outside the laboratory. They are social, political, economic and environmental. Doctors have few pills and fewer surgical tools to alter the etiology—the starting causes—of many diseases.
For example, anthropologist R. D. McCracken of the University of California believes that the carbohydrates in grains, potatoes and refined sugar play a dominant role in such modern afflictions as “diabetes, heart disease, stroke, schizophrenia, alcoholism and even possibly some kinds of cancer.” The worst food, he believes, is pure or near-pure sugar. He says: “Two hundred years ago the per capita consumption of sugar in England was about 7 1⁄2 pounds a year. Today it is 120 pounds.”
It is during the last century or so that degenerative diseases have taken such a devastating toll in wealthy countries, McCracken stressed in an interview during a meeting of the American Anthropological Association. The interesting comment was made that in some ways ancient man was healthier than modern man.
Disease Land Mines
Potential epidemics lurk like land mines. They can explode in the most unexpected ways, whether a country is advanced or not. Diseases from parasites, for example, can invade a country of high living standards, simply because so many people, including some doctors, do not believe that such diseases matter or even exist. Dr. Myron G. Schultz of the CDC’s parasitic disease branch cites malaria as a disease that was supposed to be eradicated from the United States in the 1940’s. But it keeps cropping up. “Our population is completely nonimmune to malaria,” warns Schultz, “and we have the mosquitoes present in this country that could spread the disease.”
Additionally, transportation makes advanced countries vulnerable to epidemic outbreaks from any corner of the globe. “Today a man living in Britain may be infected with . . . malignant malaria in West Africa and be home the same day,” Professor Brian Maegraith of the Liverpool, England, School of Tropical Medicine told a symposium of the Royal Society of Medicine.
“We Are Killing Ourselves”
But when everything is viewed and reviewed, most of mankind’s afflictions are self-induced. “We are killing ourselves,” declared heart and exercise specialist Dr. Kenneth Cooper. “We don’t have to die so soon. All five of the leading causes of death are preventable to some extent.”
Cooper, who designed aerobic exercises to improve the heart and lungs, says that the number one killer, heart disease, “can be reduced by maintaining proper weight, diet, exercise and avoiding tobacco.” The second, lung cancer, is associated with a history of cigarette smoking in 88 percent of the deaths it causes. Automobile injuries, the third killer, could be reduced drastically—according to the National Safety Council—if everyone used seat belts. The fourth, cirrhosis, is a liver disease often caused by alcohol. And the fifth, strokes, is related to obesity, or overweight. Dr. Cooper says: “Fifty million Americans are one billion pounds overweight. Obesity is related to hypertension which causes strokes.”
Alcohol abuse is a part of the problem of at least 25 out of every 100 patients hospitalized with ailing stomachs, bleeding intestines or cirrhotic livers. Drunken drivers account for more than half the 50,000 people killed in automobile accidents in the United States each year. Heroin claims hundreds of thousands of victims and is a major cause of death of young men in New York City. More than a million Americans are hooked on sleeping pills, usually barbiturates. About eight billion uppers (amphetamines) are gulped down each year. Fifty million Americans spend $8 billion a year for tobacco, the use of which causes many of them to die from heart disease and lung cancer. The number one killer is from the abuse of self.
Hence, even if medical costs were no problem, if doctors were within easy reach of everyone, if overpopulation, environmental pollution and all the other external causes of disease were eliminated, there would still remain what one doctor called, “the myriad ways in which we insist on making ourselves sick, . . . or even dead.”
How Far Could the Life Span Be Stretched?
But suppose that people cut out all forms of self-injury. Yes, what if all the current major causes of self-induced death were eliminated? How long could we live if we tried? Would medical scientists then achieve their dream?
No, says zoologist James Giesel. The human life span might be lengthened by a few years, but other illnesses would simply become bigger killers, he believes. Older people’s resistance would continue to become weaker. “They would die of things like pneumonia and flu,” he says. Why? For one thing, aging itself is not understood. Giesel concludes: “There is little chance that we will greatly increase life expectance or postpone aging in the near future.”
The health of people demands a life-style that puts spiritual values above everything else. That fact was recognized nearly 2,000 years ago when the apostle Paul urged Christians who lived in the degenerating Roman empire: “Godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.”—1 Timothy 4:8.
And as for the conquest of old age and death, that cannot happen until “the tent of God is with mankind.” Only Jehovah God can “wipe out every tear from their eyes,” as promised by those awe-inspiring words: “Death will be no more.”—Revelation 21:3, 4.
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What May or May Not Be Done About It
WHAT IS HERPES? Herpes is caused not by a bacterium but by a virus. Herpes simplex type 1 usually causes cold sores around the mouth. Herpes simplex type 2 usually infects the sex organs and surrounding areas. In rare cases, type 1 is found in the genital areas, and type 2 on the mouth.
HOW IDENTIFIED? Only a doctor with laboratory tests can make sure whether a person has genital herpes. Sometimes other diseases can be confused with herpes.
HOW SPREAD? Doctors feel that a person cannot get it from toilet seats or bathtubs. It is caught by actual contact with infected parts. Cold sores can be spread by touching or kissing when the infective agents are active. Genital herpes may be spread by any kind of contact with the genital areas.
WHEN IS IT CONTAGIOUS? At any time, for either type, until the sores are completely healed.
DANGERS? Hazards include: (1) Herpes can be spread to a new location by touch. So touching an infected area and then another vulnerable part of the body, such as the eyes, nasal membranes or sex organs, should be avoided. If the infection is spread to the eyes, this may lead to a severe eye infection (herpes keratitis). (2) Pregnant women with genital herpes are more likely to miscarry than are those without. (3) Such women are five to eight times more likely to develop cervical cancer than are those not infected. (4) Newborn children whose mothers are actively infected with genital herpes run the risk of being infected, and over half the infected infants die or are severely damaged.
TREATMENT? Other than trying to relieve discomfort and prevent further infection, doctors offer little real help and no cure for genital herpes. Specialists recommend bathing with soap and water or other soothing agents, such as Burow’s solution or Epsom salts.
WARNING: “Don’t harm yourself with treatments that don’t work!” warns a booklet published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It lists among treatments that are ineffective (and some of which may be harmful) vaccines for other diseases, immunization stimulants, antiviral agents, ether, vitamins and minerals. Concerning a host of “advertised cures,” William Whittington of the VD branch of CDC stated: “None of these work.”
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Africa has one doctor for every 5,000 people, the United States one to every 500
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During the past 25 years lung cancer has increased 200 percent, due mainly to cigarettes
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Too much refined sugar may damage your health
Auto injuries could be reduced drastically if everyone used seat belts
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The fourth greatest killer is liver disease, often caused by alcohol