Special Report

10 Deadliest Diseases in the World

7. Diarrhoeal disease
> Deaths in 2012:
1.5 million
> Deaths in 2000: 2.2 million
> Share of global deaths: 2.7%

Diarrhea can be treated with clean water, sugar, salt, and zinc tablets. Yet, while entirely preventable and fully treatable once contracted, diarrhoeal disease killed 1.5 million people in 2012, making it the seventh leading cause of death in the world. Further, it is the second leading cause of death among young children, killing an estimated 760,000 children under the age of five annually. Diarrhoea is usually a symptom of an infection in the intestinal tract, a very common condition in areas with unsafe drinking water, especially water contaminated with human or animal feces. Angola, Somalia, Chad, Central African Republic, and Sierra Leone report the highest death tolls among children from diarrhoeal disease.

6. HIV/AIDS
> Deaths in 2012:
1.5 million
> Deaths in 2000: 1.7 million
> Share of global deaths: 2.7%

Like a few other deadly diseases, the death toll from HIV/AIDS fell from the 2000 estimate of 1.7 million to 1.5 million in 2012. In the mid-2000s, due in part to the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, the price of certain drugs dropped dramatically — antiretroviral medicines used to treat HIV/AIDS have become 100 times more affordable. Cheaper, high-quality generic drugs are essential for treating HIV/AIDS, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, which is home to seven out of every 10 people with HIV worldwide.

5. Trachea, bronchus, lung cancers
> Deaths in 2012:
1.6 million
> Deaths in 2000: 1.2 million
> Share of global deaths: 2.9%

In many places around the world, death from disease is largely due to lack of treatment and inadequate health services. Lung cancer can be treated, but there is no cure, which accounts for at least part of the high global death toll. The incidence of lung cancer is roughly equal to the mortality rate from the disease. And while there have been great strides in cancer treatment, and death tolls from many types of cancer have dropped substantially, lung cancer mortality has improved only slightly from 2000. Among men, deaths from lung cancer fell by 4% globally and by a much larger 19% among men in high-income OECD countries. Among women, lung cancer deaths increased from 2000 through 2012.

4. Lower respiratory infections
> Deaths in 2012:
3.1 million
> Deaths in 2000: 3.5 million
> Share of global deaths: 5.5%

Bronchitis is the most common respiratory infection. Generally, however, lower respiratory infections are not as clearly defined as other deadly diseases, which hinder the ability to gain understanding of the full scope of the disease. This can also hurt the efforts of advocacy groups and organizations working to lower the incidence of these diseases. People with asthma or sinusitis may develop an acute respiratory infection, but often the underlying cause is unknown. Air pollution is a major contributor to the incidence of respiratory illnesses. While in many high-income countries air pollution has decreased considerably, elsewhere emissions and the levels of harmful particulate matter have increased dramatically. In South and East Asia, the increase in air pollution is largely due to population growth. Approximately three in every four people globally were exposed to potentially hazardous pollution in 2012.

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