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Infectious Diseases, More than Covid-19

By Charles Redding, MedShare CEO & President

On January 30, 2021, the world celebrated the 2nd annual Neglected Tropical Disease Day, a day designed to raise awareness and engage the general public in the urgent effort to #BeatNTDs. Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) threaten more than 1.7 billion people living in the poorest and most marginalized communities worldwide. These diseases blind, disable and disfigure people, taking away not only their health, but also their chances of staying in school, earning a living, or even being accepted by their family or community. NTDs include:

  • Buruli ulcer

  • Chagas disease

  • Dengue and Chikungunya

  • Guinea worm disease

  • Echinococcosis

  • Foodborne trematodiases

  • Human African trypanosomiasis

  • Leishmaniasis

  • Leprosy

  • Lymphatic filariasis

  • Mycetoma, chromoblastomycosis and other deep mycoses

  • Onchocerciasis

  • Rabies

  • Scabies and other ectoparasites

  • Schistosomiasis

  • Soil-transmitted helminthiases

  • Snakebite envenoming

  • Taeniasis/Cysticercosis

  • Trachoma

  • Yaws

Source: World Health Organization

MedShare established an Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Program (IDCPP) to bring focus to and support for treating these and other diseases in the developing world. The current Covid-19 pandemic has no doubt increased global awareness of infectious diseases and the devastating impact they can have on vulnerable populations, but there is still much work to be done to ease the burden of these diseases on marginalized communities around the world.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infectious diseases are a major challenge for human health and the leading cause of death around the world. As these outbreaks continue to increase in size and numbers of people affected globally, MedShare is prepared to respond where intervention is most needed.

The Challenge:

Infectious diseases are usually preventable with the use of personal protective equipment, general public health measures or immunologic approaches like vaccination. History has shown that certain infectious diseases, particularly those with global health implications, can be eliminated or contained so that treatment is effective.

The Opportunity:

  • Decrease global health disparities by providing basic and critical medical supplies (gloves, masks, shoe covers, etc.) to minimize infectious disease transmission;

  • Increase capacity in local health care systems to better detect and prevent communicable disease outbreaks;

  • Strengthen global health systems to identify and prevent infectious disease outbreaks earlier and more effectively;

  • Improve health outcomes for patients affected by transmissible diseases, and support surveillance.

  • Ultimately, save lives

MedShare’s response to epidemics is swift and efficient in providing life-saving medical supplies and equipment to health care workers on the front lines. We work closely with hospital and health care partners in developing nations to ensure they get the supplies they need.

As communicable disease outbreaks occur, MedShare is ready to respond with the timely delivery of medical supplies, personal protective clothing and equipment and biomedical equipment.

By providing essential medical supplies to caregivers of patients with infectious diseases, the transmission rates drastically decrease, and these caregivers can treat more patients successfully.

In 2014, MedShare played a key role in combating Ebola and in rebuilding health systems in West Africa by providing $3.6 million of urgently needed medical supplies and personal protective equipment to public hospitals and clinics. I got a chance to see first-hand the impact of our work and the devastating aftermath of the Ebola outbreak when I traveled to Liberia in 2016, after the nation was declared Ebola-free. I also got the chance to witness first-hand the affliction of many of the NTDs.

In 2019, MedShare continued to work with our partners to send critical medical supplies and personal protective equipment to the DRC to aid in addressing the health care challenges faced in combating reported Ebola outbreaks in the region.

MedShare is also participating in a partnership to strengthen and continuously care for Ebola survivors through the Center of Excellence in Vision Care at the Lowell and Ruth Gess Eye Hospital (LRGEH) in Sierra Leone. The project is led by Dr. Steven Yeh and Dr. Jessica Shantha, of the Emory Eye Clinic. They have done incredible work, finding that Ebola survivors are at risk for uveitis, or inflammation of the eye, which can lead to permanent vision loss if left untreated. They have expanded their efforts to address many of the mental health issues that survivors experience as well.

Currently, our efforts are focused on supporting communities with PPE to help protect and combat the spread of Covid-19. In the last year, we have provided over 5.6 million units of PPE to over 240 health care institutions worldwide. Many of those are here in the U.S. As part of that effort, we provided critically-needed face masks, along with other types of PPE including ventilators, gloves, gowns and head coverings, to nearly 5 million health care professionals and patients, and our work continues.

I am always looking for a silver lining in a dark cloud. Perhaps the increased knowledge and awareness of the causes and impact of infectious diseases will lead to renewed efforts to combat the other infectious diseases that are not receiving the media attention and resources of Covid-19.


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