Top Ten Killer Diseases

The following are some of the biggest killer diseases in the developing world which are ranked according to the annual death tolls. Some of these diseases are silent killers because the symptoms do not manifest itself until a later stage.


1. Lower Respiratory Infections

Lower Respiratory Infections

At least more than 4 million people are killed each year by lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia and other diseases of the bronchial tubes, windpipe or lungs, including Legionnaire’s disease. This infection spreads through laughing, exhaling, coughing or sneezing.




In 2004, over 3 million deaths were attributed to AIDS. Some 39.4 million people in the world live with HIV. HIV is the abbreviation for “human immunodeficiency virus”. It damages the immune system. HIV infection is the root cause of AIDS, which stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.


3. Malaria


The death toll as a result of malaria is between 1 million and 5 million each year. According to WHO, the number of people affected by Malaria annually is 300 millions.  The disease spreads through mosquito infestation.


4. Diarrhoea


Diarrhoea kills around 2.2 million people each year. There are at least 4 billion cases of infected people every year. Caused by cholera, dysentery and other scourges, Diarrhoea is a symptom of infection viral, bacterial and parasitic organisms such as microscopic worms. Dehydration causes the maximum amount of diarrhoea-related deaths in children.


5. Tuberculosis


Over 2 million people die of TB every year. Over 8 million new cases develop each year and about 2 billion people are infected with TB. A chronic cough, chills, fever, weight loss and weakness are the main symptoms of this disease. The disease spreads through sneezing or coughing. Directly Observed Therapy Short-course – DOTS – is the internationally recommended approach to TB control.


6. Measles


An estimated 530,000 people die from measles annually. This includes children mostly. Every year, more than 30 million people are infected with the virus. Measles can lead to brain damage, blindness and can also make children prone to diarrhea and Pneumonia. If left untreated it can become fatal.


7. Whooping Cough or Pertussis

Whooping Cough

The death toll from whooping cough is 200,000 to 300,000 fatalities each year. There are about 20 million to 40 million cases annually. Whooping cough is a highly contagious and severe bacterial disease of the respiratory tract. It can spread through talking, sneezing or coughing.


8. Tetanus


The death toll from tetanus is 214,000 deaths a year. The infection rate is 500,000 cases a year. Tetanus is also known as lockjaw. It is a potentially fatal disease of the central nervous system. It is characterized by prolonged contraction of the skeletal muscle fibers. Infection generally spreads through wound contamination.


9. Meningitis


There are over 174,000 deaths a year from meningitis. Meningitis affects at least a million people every year. It is a fatal infection of the tissues covering the spinal cord and the brain. 5-10% of patients die even with early diagnosis and treatment. Droplets from the throat or breath can cause this infection to spread. It can also spread through sharing of eating and drinking utensils and close contact with infected persons.


10. Syphilis


The death toll from syphilis is around 157,000 deaths a year. Around 12.2 million cases get infected worldwide. This disease spreads through sexual contact and can also be transmitted internally from an infected mother directly to her baby. In fact, the disease was called the “Great Imitator” because it was often confused with other diseases, particularly in its tertiary stage. Syphilis can generally be treated with antibiotics, including Penicillin.

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