Communicable Diseases Essay

Improvement in the health status of the population has been one of the major thrust areas for the social development programmes of the country. This was to be achieved through improving the access to and utilization of Health, Family Welfare and Nutrition Services with special focus on under served and under privileged segment of population. Main responsibility of infrastructure and manpower building rests with the State Government supplemented by funds from the Central Government and external assistance. Major disease control programmes and the Family Welfare Programmes are funded by the Centre (some with assistance from external agencies) and are implemented through the State infrastructure. The food supplementation programmes for mothers and children are funded by the State and implemented through the ICDS infrastructure funded by the Central Government. Safe drinking water and environmental sanitation are essential pre-requisites for health. Initially these two activities were funded by the Health Department, but subsequently Dept. of Urban and Rural Development and Dept. of Environment fund these activities both in the State and Centre. Health and health care development has not been a priority of the Indian state.

This is reflected in two significant facts. One, the low level of investment and allocation of resources to the health sector over the years about one percent of GDP with clear declining trends over the last decade. And second the uncontrolled and very rapid development of an unregulated private health sector, especially in the last two decades.This does not mean that there was no health policy all these years. At the state government level there is no evidence of any policy initiatives in the health sector. The Central government through the Council of Health and Family Welfare and various Committee recommendations has shaped health policy and planning in India. It has directed this through the Five Year Plans through which it executes its decisions. The entire approach has been program based. The Centre designs national programs and the states have to just accept them. The Centre assures this through the fiscal control it has in distribution of resources.

So, essentially what is a state subject the Centre takes major decisions. However it is important to note that this Central control is largely over preventive and promotive programs like the Disease Control programs, MCH and Family Planning, which together account for between half and two-thirds of state budgets. Curative care, that is hospital and dispensaries, has not been an area of Central influence and in this domain investments have come mostly from the state’s own resources. Structured health policy making and health planning in India is not a post-independence phenomena. In fact, the most comprehensive health policy and plan document ever prepared in India was on the eve of Independence in 1946. Especially the 80% population residing in rural areas. It is only an embarrassment for the Indian nation that more than half a century later there is no evidence of development of health care services to an expected level.

The enclave pattern of development of the health sector continues even today – the poor, the villagers, women and other underprivileged sections of society, in other words the majority, still do not have access to affordable basic health care of any credible quality. This Research Paper includes analysis of existing Health Planning and the development of health status of the society in the past decade 2001 to 2011 . Census of India 2001 and Census of India 2011 used. Decline of Fertility rate,Maternal Mortality rate ,Infant Mortality rate and other developments are studied .At the same time Upgrowing Trend of fatality of some communicable diseases (Dengue,Malaria,Cholera) and Noncommunicable Diseases (Heart Diseases,Diabetic ) are also studied and analysed in this paper.

Key Words : Health planning,development,IMR,MMR,TFR,Upgrowing CDs and NCDsDiseases.

Health planning and policies :

Good health is a basic requirement for quality of life. It is the foundation for social and economic development. The objective of the government is to ensure that health care services are rendered, keeping in view the core principles of accessibility, equity, quality and affordability. This will be accomplished through strengthening of the health care network throughout the state to deliver not only curative but also preventive and rehabilitative care. To achieve the above objectives, the budget allocation of the Health and Family Welfare Department has been fixed at Rs 5569.28 crores for the financial year 2012-13 as against the provision of Rs.3889 crores for the year 2010-11 registering an increase of more than 40%.

Tamil Nadu fares well on the health indicators which form a part of the Human Development Index (HDI) as compared to other Indian states.Government policy interventions and funding have played an important role in the State’s better health outcomes. Tamil Nadu has implemented various programmes with special focus on maternal and child health which has resulted in the reduction of vital indicators such as the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR), Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Total Fertility Rate (TFR). However, the state willcontinue its efforts to improve its performance in the health sector by benchmarking itself against higher targets. The recently released “Vision 2023″ envisages Tamil Nadu to become not only the numero uno State in India in terms of social indicators, but also reach the levels attained by developed countries in human development by ensuring universal access to health facilities”

This Government will continue to give prominence to the health of women and children. Promotion of institutional deliveries by strengthening the Primary Health Centres and Health Sub-Centres with qualified and trained manpower, establishment of upgraded Primary Health Centres in each block with 30 beds, an operation theatre and various other facilities, provision of 24 hours delivery care services by positioning 3 staff nurses in each Primary Health Centre, provision of emergency obstetric care in the CEmONC Centres established in the district and select taluk hospitals, ensuring availability of an Emergency Response System through 108 ambulances with inter facility transfer, provision of safe blood at the upgraded Primary Health Centres, provision of neo-natal ambulances for the transportation of neo-natal emergencies, establishment of Neo-natal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) with trained Doctors and Staff Nurses in each district are all schemes which would no doubt help to achieve good progress in the further reduction of MMR and IMR, in the coming years.

The benefit under the Dr.Muthulakshmi Reddy Maternity Benefit Assistance Scheme has been enhanced to Rs.12,000, which is the highest in the country. This has come as a boon to the poor beneficiaries who deliver in government health facilities. The three phase payment has also strengthened antenatal, postnatal care and improved child immunization. The scheme would have a major impact on further improving the maternal and child health indicators in the State. An allocation of Rs.720 crores has been provided for this scheme in 2012-2013. This Government has announced a path breaking new scheme for free distribution of sanitary napkins to rural adolescent girls. This scheme which has been launched by the Hon’ble Chief Minister on 27th March 2012, will benefit over 41 lakh adolescent girls in the 10-19 age group in rural areas covering all the districts of the state. Sanitary napkins will be distributed through schools and Anganwadis.

This initiative will go a long way to improve personal hygiene, prevent future complications such as infertility and promote the health of the future mothers. An amount of Rs.55 crores has been provided for this scheme in this financial year. State-wide programmes have been launched for the management of iron deficiency anaemia and gestational diabetes. The State has been the first to introduce the use of injection iron sucrose in the public sector for reducing severe anaemia in pregnant women following a protocol developed by senior obstetricians and specialists. Addressing these major underlying causes will no doubt help to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality further. The Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme has been launched on 11th January 2012 to provide insurance coverage for life threatening ailments to the poor people of Tamil Nadu. This scheme has enhanced the sum assured to rupees one lakh per year and Rs.4 lakhs for a period of four years and has also extended the coverage to more diseases and included diagnostic procedures. Special provisions have also been incorporated to strengthen the role of Government hospitals in implementing the scheme. So far, 26,172 beneficiaries have undergone treatments costing Rs.70.53 crores.

A sum of Rs.750 crores has been provided for the implementation of this scheme in 2012-2013. As new initiatives, during 2012-2013, the infrastructure for operation theatres in district and medical college hospitals will be improved at a cost of Rs.20 crores. Post-mortem facilities will be improved at a cost of Rs.10 crores. To improve the services available to the public, diagnostic equipment will be provided at a cost of Rs.10 crores and MRI facilities will be provided in 5 Medical Colleges through Public Private Partnership. The Burns centre in Kilpauk Medical College Hospital will be upgraded as a Centre of Excellence at a cost of Rs.5 crores. The incidence of cancer as a disease hasgradually been increasing and it has become a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the State. A State Cancer Registry to collect details of all the cancer cases in the State will be put in place fromthis year. Further, most forms of cancer are treatable if detected early.

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Seventy percent of various types of patients seek treatment in an advanced stage. There is only one exclusive cancer hospital in the Government sector i.e. Arignar Anna Cancer Hospital at Karapettai, Kancheepuram is providing treatment to the patients. Considering the increasing need for specialized cancer care, Government has decided to establish Regional Cancer Centres at the Government Rajaji Hospital, Madurai and Coimbatore Medical College Hospital at a cost of Rs.15 crores per centre. These cancer centres will address the needs of the cancer patients in the Southern and Western region of the State. A new programme to screen the high risk population for oral cancer and to diagnose it at an early stage will also be launched. The King Institute of Preventive Medicine and Research, Guindy, Chennai, is one of the premier institutions of this country. It is also a teaching and research centre.

The Virology department of this Institute is recognized by Government of India and the World Health Organisation as the National Polio Laboratory. This institute was manufacturing vaccines and serum which was stopped some years back. It is now proposed to revive the vaccine production and create a Tissue bank in the KingInstitute of Preventive Medicine and Research, Guindy, Chennai, at a cost of Rs.5 crores. Special focus will be provided on non communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and cancer of breast and cervix which are emerging as major causes of morbidity and mortality. A two pronged strategy wil be adopted to tackle these diseases. While awareness creation for prevention through life style changes will be taken up at various levels, infrastructure facilities for early detection and treatment will be created. After the success of the pilot schemes in two districts, this activity has been scaled up to the entire State in phases.

During phase -I, the programme has been taken up for implementation in 16 districts and during phase-II, the programme will be implemented in the remaining 16 Districts during the later part of the year. Rs.158 crores has been earmarked to the Health Systems Project for implementing the programmes during this year. Considering the growing urbanization of the State it is necessary to address urban health challenges, especially in small urban towns. 60 urban primary health centres already sanctioned under NRHM and the newly sanctioned 75 urban primary health centres have been brought under the control of Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine. Strengthening of these centres with appointment of Medical Officers, Staff Nurses, ANMs, Pharmacists etc., is now taking place. The Medical Services Recruitment Board, which is the first of its kind in India, has been formed exclusively for the Health and Family Welfare Department to recruit candidates to fill up medical and para medical vacancies in the Government Hospitals and Primary Health Centres.

The Board is taking action to recruit candidates for ten major categories of posts which will no doubt improve the functioning of the government health institutions.The objective of Vision 2023 is to build a healthy society that will be able to take part in and share the fruits of economic development. The various schemes launched by this Government during the last year and the new schemes proposed now for this year would build a beginning to achieve the objectives of the Vision 2023.

This includes Rs.5413.75 crores on the Revenue Account and Rs.154.62 crores on the Capital Account. The provision on the Revenue Account works out to 5.51% of the total Revenue Expenditure of Rs.98213.85 crores in the Tamil Nadu State Budget for the year 2012 -2013. Note: Apart from the above provision, funds towards Civil Works being undertaken by Public Works Department have been provided to the tune of Rs.323.68 crores under Demand No.39. The Directorate-wise provision for 2012-2013 made under Demand No.19 Health and Family Welfare Department is as follows: (Rupees in lakhs)

Decadal Population growth rate as shown below :

Current Status of Communicable Diseases in India

India is undergoing an epidemiologic, demo-graphic and health transition. The expectancy of life has increased, with consequent rise in degenerative diseases of aging and life-styles. Nevertheless, communicable diseases are still dominant and constitute major public health issues. New viral and bacterial infections have been identified. Monitoring of anti-microbial resistance to commonly used drugs is being extended to include more organisms. Disease surveillance at the molecular level has been expanded and strengthened. Studies to assess disease burden not only in terms of morbidity and mortality but also economic are high on the Council’s agenda. Feasibility of effective strategies under field conditions for control of infectious diseases is being demonstrated. Research support to eradicate target diseases has been intensified. Development and evaluation of diagnostic tools, drugs and vaccines is being undertaken.

Programme relevant research to strengthen the national health programmes and human resource development are an integral part of the efforts of the Council towards control of communicable diseases. It is evident that inspite of the declining mortality and changing morbidity pattern, India still has the “unfinished agenda” of combating the traditional infectious diseases that continue to contribute to a heavy disease burden and take a sizeable toll. Along with these, the country has to deal with the “emerging agenda” which includes chronic and newer diseases induced by the changing age structure, changing lifestyles and environmental pollution. We need to prepare ourselves to face the challenges of widening disparities between sections of the population in terms of access to good health. Till date, the diseases we have been able to eradicate in India are smallpox (in 1977) and guinea worm (in 2001) though we have many more in the agenda (polio, leprosy, yaws).

Diseases like yaws and plague have been under control. During 1997, as many as 8515 cases of yaws were reported and treated. While during 2001, only 168 cases have been reported and treated4 i.e. 50 times reduction in four years time. Epidemics of cholera are not that frequent as in old days. Reported cases of cholera were 176,307 with 86,997 deaths in 1950.1 However, now total number of cases in a year is about 5,000 and mortality is also low. Dengue was predominantly an urban problem but now cases and outbreaks have been reported from rural areas also. There has been a decline in dengue fever/dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) incidence after 1996 outbreak in Delhi. However during 2001, outbreaks have been reported from Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Gujurat.4 Malaria is still a public health problem till today.

The programme for eradication of malaria has been in place for the past 50 years under different names in our country. At the peak level of the success of programme in 1964, malaria was contained to less than 100,000 cases and no deaths. However, the situation slipped out of control and by 1976 we had 6,467,215 cases of malaria with 99 deaths.4 The total number of leprosy cases has dropped substantially from 2.91 million in 1981 to 0.44 million cases reported in March 2002. The prevalence rate has reduced from 57 per 10,000 in 1981 to 4.2 cases per 10,000 population in 2002. However, it is still much higher than the target, which is 1 case per 10,000 populations, of National Leprosy Elimination Programme. With these limited progresses, we have failed on many counts. Some diseases, which were once thought to have been conquered, have re-emerged in the recent years.

Plague, which was a public health problem in the 1940s, speedily declined as a result of large scale application of dichlorodiphenyl- trichloroethane (DDT) in the year 1946.There was no laboratory confirmed plague in India during 1966 to 1993. However, during 1994, an outbreak of pneumonicplague was reported from Surat, Gujarat. Recently, in February 2002, an outbreak of plague was reported from Shimla, Tuberculosis : Tuberculosis accounts for a loss of approximately 11 million disability adjusted life years (DALYs).

The burden of disease may increase further with the emergence of the HIV epidemic. The Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) which covers more than 120 million population has successfully treated approximately 80% of patients in 48 districts of 16 states and Union Territories. Treatment success rates have more than doubled and death rates have decreased by 75 per cent. The ICMR’s Tuberculosis Research Centre (TRC) at Chennai is providing research support to the RNTCP through the conduct of basic, applied and operational research to develop better tools and training strategies for tuberculosis control.

Diarrhoeal Diseases

The National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED), Calcutta and RMRC, Bhuban-eswar continued to pursue their research goals on different facets of diarrhoeal diseases. The NICED, Calcutta has earned an important affiliation with the Japanese International Collaborating Programme. Its active surveillance programme continues to monitor the newly emerging diarrhoeal pathogens Entamoeba histolytica,Rotavirus,Vibrio cholera and V.parahaemolyticus and addresses unknown frontiers in clinical diagnosis and disease management.A double-blind, randomized, controlled clinical trial was conducted by NICED,. These results suggest that zinc supplementation as an adjunct therapy to ORS has beneficial effects on the clinical course of dehydrating acute diarrhoea.

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The emergence of chloroquin resistance in P.falciparum and vector resistance to commonly used insecticides are the main obstacles in the control of malaria in the country. New technologies are being introduced for malaria control under Enhanced Malaria Control Programme. The roll back malaria programme has been launched simultaneously in all malaria endemic countries. These have thrown new challenges in malaria research. The Council’s institutes viz. Malaria Research Centre (MRC), Vector Control Research Centre (VCRC) and other institutes are making efforts to address these problems through focused research in vector and parasite biology and ecology, development of malaria control tools, drug development, testing and validation of new technologies.

Disease Control Programmes – Non Communicable Diseases

National Programme of Prevention & Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases & Stroke Programme (NPCDCS) . A new National Programme of Prevention & Control of Cancer, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Diseases & Stroke (NPCDCS) was approved in July, 2010. This programme will cover 100 districts selected on the basis of their backwardness, inaccessibility and poor health indicators, spread over 21 States, during 2010-11 and 2011-12. The focus of the programme is on promotion of healthy life styles, early diagnosis and management of diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and common cancers e.g. cervix cancer, breast cancer, and oral cancer and will cover about 200 million persons in all the districts.


Our findings clearly establish the significant influence of the various Health planning studied on the health status of the society. They also show that this influence was more pronounced in the case of some health indicators maternal mortality rate,population growth rate, death rate, infant mortality rate than some communicable diseases survilance. The findings suggest that appropriate strategies and programmes need to be worked out to prevent CDs and control NCDs. especially to avoid upgrowing trend of some diseases like acute respiratory infection ,acute diarrhoeal disease,pulmonary tuberlosis , malaria,enteric fever , Pneumonia ect.. These would include awareness creation regarding sanitation more knowledge about the diseases and treatment and prevention through mass media and interpersonal channels. Healthy environment, especially safe drinking water supply, sanitary disposal of excreta and other wastes, and pollution-free housing and work places. Adequate nutrition, which in turn depends on production and availability, accessibility, affordability and intrafamilial distribution of food.

Control over communicable disease. Lifestyle changes that influence the occurrence of non communicable diseases.The services of Government as well as non-governmental organizations could be sought for more effective implementation of such strategies and programmes. The management of the Health and family welfare programme at the grossroots level,which is likely to vary with the managerial skills of the programme manager, and its impact on the realization of the objectives of the health planning and programme . As management quality has been recognized as a critical factor in determining the success of Health planning implementation, staff recruitment and effective functioning of the PHC and sub-centres could be increased and thus the health plan could be more successful. 1.Associate Professor in Economics , Sri Parasakthi women College, Courtalam. 2. Research Scholar in Health economics , M.S.University, Tirunelveli.


1. Deodhar NS. Health situation in India: 2001.Voluntary Health Association of India. New Delhi. 2. Last JM. A dictionary of epidemiology. Third edition, Oxford University Press.1995. 3. GOI. National Health Policy 2002. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India (GOI), New Delhi. 4. GOI. Annual Report 2001-2002. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India (GOI), New Delhi. 5. World Health Organization 2002. Weekly Epidemiological Report. No 9:1st March 2002. 6. GOI. Combating HIV/AIDS in India 2000-2001. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, National AIDS Control Organization. Government of India (GOI), New Delhi. 7. World Health Organization. NCD in South-East Asia region A profile WHO New Delhi 2002. 8. National Institute of Health and Family Welfare. National Health Programmes on Non Communicable Diseases, New Delhi. 2003. 9. [Last assessed on 2012 July 31]

10. World Health Organization. Global Status Report on non-communicable diseases 2010. 11. Beaglehole et al. Priority actions for the non-communicable disease crises. THE LANCET 2011; 377:9775; 1438-1447. 12. World Health Organization. Non-communicable Diseases Country Profile 2011. 13. World Health Organization. Global Health Observatory, 2011. 14. World Health Organization, Regional Office for South-East Asia. Non-communicable

Diseases in the South-East Asia Region: Situation and response 2011 15. Beaglehole R. Globalization and the Prevention and control of non-communicable disease: the neglected chronic diseases of adults. THE LANCET 2003; 362:9387; 903-908. 16. Nongkynrih B, Ratro B K, Pandav C S. Current Status of Communicable and Non-Communicable Diseases in India. Journal of The Association of Physicians of India 2004; 52; 118-123. 17. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (2011). Rural Health Statistics in India. New Delhi: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 18. World Health Organization (WHO). World Health Statistics, 2012 19. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) 20. Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. NCD Section. [Last assessed on 2012 July 31] 21. Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.Journal of National Cancer Control Programme2012. 22. Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India. National Tobacoo Control Programme. 23. Directorate General of health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. Operational guidelines for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Daibetes, CVD and Stroke (NPCDCS). 24. Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India. Indian Public Health Standards. [Last assessed on 2012 July 31] 25. The World Bank, South Asia Human Development, Health Nutrition and Population. NCDs Policy Brief: India, 2011 26.Srivastava R K, Bachani D. Burden of NCDs, Policies and Programmes for Prevention and Control of NCDs in India. Indian Journal of Community Medicine 2011; 36: S7-12 27.Health and family welfare department Demand No .19 Policy note 2012-2013 Dr.Vijay Minister for Health

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Communicable Diseases Essay


Infectious agents and examples of


The organisms that cause disease vary in size from viruses, which are too small to be seen by a light microscope to intestinal worms which may be over a metre long. The groups of infectious agents are listed with examples of diseases they cause.


Pneumonia, tuberculosis, enteric fever, gonorrhoea


Measles, varicella, influenza, colds, rabies


Ringworm, tinea pedis (athlete’s foot)


Malaria, giardia


Tapeworm, filariasis, onchcerciasis (river blindness),



Kuru, Creutzfeld-Jacob disease, Bovine spongiform

encephalopathy (BSE)

Modes of transmission

Direct transmission

s Direct contact with the infected person as in touching,

kissing or sexual intercourse

s Droplet spread through coughing sneezing, talking or explosive diarrhoea

s Faecal-oral spread when infected faeces is transferred to the mouth of a non infected person, usually by hand.

Indirect transmission s Indirect transmission of infectious organisms involves vehicles and vectors which carry disease agents from the source to the host.

Infectious agents

Modes of transmission

Definitions and terms used

Symptoms and signs

General management

and treatment



Chickenpox (Varicella)


Dengue fever


Enteric fever (typhoid

and para-typhoid fevers)

German measles


Glandular fever

Hepatitis (viral)









Scarlet fever



Typhus fever

Whooping cough


Yellow fever

Sexually transmitted

diseases including HIV


NOTE. Other communicable

diseases such as Lassa Fever do

not fall within the competence

of this book. When in doubt

notify the Port Health Officer.

Communicable diseases


Communicable diseases are those that are transmissible from

one person, or animal, to another. The disease may be spread directly, via another species (vector) or via the environment. Illness will arise when the infectious agent invades the host, or sometimes as a result of toxins produced by bacteria in


The spread of disease through a population is determined by environmental and social conditions which favour the infectious agent, and the relative immunity of the population. An outbreak of infection could endanger the operation and safety of the ship. An understanding of the disease and the measures necessary for its containment and management is therefore important.



Vehicles are inanimate or non-living means of transmission of infectious organisms. They include:

s Water. If polluted, specifically by contaminated sewage. Water is the vehicle for such enteric (intestinal) diseases as typhoid, cholera, and amoebic and bacillary dysentery. s Milk is the vehicle for diseases of cattle transmissible to man, including bovine tuberculosis, brucellosis. Milk also serves as a growth medium for some agents of bacterial diseases such as campylobacter, a common cause of diarrhoea. s Food is the vehicle for salmonella infections (which include enteric fever), amoebic dysentery, and other diarrhoeal diseases, and poisoning. Any food can act as a vehicle for infection especially if it is raw or inadequately cooked, or improperly refrigerated after cooking, as well as having been in contact with an infected source. The source may be another infected food, hands, water or air.

s Air is the vehicle for the common cold, pneumonia, tuberculosis. influenza, whooping cough. measles. and chickenpox. Discharges from the mouth. nose, throat, or lungs take the form of droplets which remain suspended in the air, from which they may be inhaled. s Soil can be the vehicle for tetanus, anthrax, hookworm. and some wound infections. s Fomites. This term includes all inanimate objects, other than water, milk, food, air, and soil, that might play a role in the transmission of disease. Fomites include bedding, clothing and the surfaces of objects.

Vectors are animate or living vehicles which transmit infections in the following ways: s Mechanical transfer. The contaminated mouth-parts or feet of some insect vectors mechanically transfer the infectious organisms to a bite-wound or to food. For example, flies may transmit bacillary dysentery, typhoid, or other intestinal infections by walking over the infected faeces and later leaving the disease-producing germs on food. s Intestinal harbourage. Certain insects harbour pathogenic (disease causing) organisms in

their intestinal tracts. The organisms are passed in the faeces or are regurgitated by the vector, and the bite-wounds or food are contaminated. (e.g. plague, typhus.) s Biological transmission. This term refers to multiplication of the infectious agent during its stay in the body of the vector. The vector takes in the organism along with a blood meal but is not able to transmit infection until after a definite period, during which the pathogen changes. The parasite that causes malaria is an example of an organism that completes the sexual stages of its life cycle within its vector, the mosquito. The virus of yellow fever also multiplies in the bodies of mosquitoes.

Terms used in connection with communicable diseases

A carrier is a person who has the infection, either without becoming ill himself or following recovery from it.

A contact is a person who may have been in contact with an infected person. The incubation period is the interval of time that elapses between a person being infected with any communicable disease and the appearance of the features of that disease. This period is very variable and depends upon the infectious agent and the inoculum (the amount of the infectious agent).

The isolation period signifies the time during which a patient suffering from an infectious disease should be isolated from others.

The period of communicability is the time during which a patient who may be incubating an infectious disease following contact can communicate the disease to others. The quarantine period means the time during which port authorities may require a ship to be isolated from contact with the shore. Quarantine of this kind is seldom carried out except when serious epidemic diseases, such as, for instance. plague. cholera, or yellow fever are present or have recently occurred on board.


Symptoms and signs

In reality it is often very difficult to make an accurate diagnosis of an infectious disease without laboratory investigations. It may be possible if there are very specific features such as a rash (varicella) or cluster of suggestive features (regular fever, enlarged spleen and history of mosquito bites in an endemic area). Because of the difficulty in making an accurate diagnosis on board ship you may have to give a variety of treatments each directed at different infectious agents.


Almost all communicable diseases begin with the patient feeling unwell and perhaps a rise in temperature. This period may be very short, lasting only a few hours (meningococcal sepsis), or more prolonged (hepatitis). In some diseases the onset is mild and there is not much general disturbance of health, whereas in others it is severe and prostrating. During the onset it is rarely possible to make a diagnosis.

The rash

The diagnosis of some communicable diseases is made easier by the presence of a characteristic rash. In certain diseases (e.g. scarlet fever) the rash is spread evenly over the body, in others it is limited to definite areas. When examining an individual suspected to be suffering from a communicable disease, it is of great importance to strip him completely in order to get a full picture of any rash and its distribution.

General rules for the management of communicable diseases


The principles of isolation are described in Chapter 3 and Chapter 5. If you have a suspicion that the disease with which you are dealing is infectious it is advisable to invoke isolation precautions as soon as possible.


An essential element in treatment is maintaining the patient’s well being. This is achieved through good general nursing and it is important to ensure that the patient does not become dehydrated.

Advice on specific medical treatment for infectious diseases which are likely to respond to specific drugs is given under the sections on treatment for the individual diseases. You may also be advised to administer drugs to prevent secondary infection occurring. See Chapter on General Nursing and on how to reduce a high fever.


Diet will very much depend on the type of disease and severity of fever. Serious fever is invariably accompanied by loss of appetite and this will automatically tend to restrict diet to beverages such as water flavoured with lemon juice and a little sugar or weak tea with a little milk and perhaps sugar.

Essential basic rules

s Isolate. If anyone suffers from a temperature without obvious cause it is best to isolate him

until a diagnosis has been made.

s Strip the patient and make a thorough examination looking for any signs of a rash in order

to try to establish the diagnosis.

s Put him to bed, and appoint someone to look after and nurse the patient. s Give non-alcoholic fluids in the first instance.

s If his temperature exceeds 39.4C make arrangements for tepid sponging.




s Arrange for the use of a bed pan and urine bottle if the patient shows any sign of

prostration or if his temperature is high.

s If the patient is seriously ill and if in any doubt as to the diagnosis seek RADIO MEDICAL

ADVICE, failing which you should consider the need for making for port. s Treat symptoms as they arise.

Do not attempt to get the patient up during convalescence if he is feeble, but keep him in bed until the next port is reached.

When approaching port, send a radio message giving details of the case to enable the Port Health Authority to make arrangements for the isolation of the case and any contacts on arrival and Disinfection.

Immunisation and travel advice

It is important that up to date advice on immunisation and the prevalent diseases should be obtained before arrival in a foreign port. This is most easily available from the following publications:

Health Information for Overseas Travel, produced by the UK Department of Health, and International Travel and Health, WHO, Geneva


French: Charbon

German: Milzbrand

Italian: Carbonchio

Spanish: Carbon

Incubation Period: 2 to 7 days, usually 2

Period of communicability: No evidence of transmission from person to person Isolation Period: No evidence of transmission from person to person Quarantine Period: None.

Anthrax is an uncommon but serious communicable disease which may occur in man and animals. It occurs in man either as an infection of the skin (malignant pustule), or as an attack on the lungs or intestines, or as a widely spread infection throughout the body by means of the blood circulation.

Anthrax is, in man, usually contracted by handling infected animals, skins, hides, or furs. It can also be conveyed by the consumption of infected or insufficiently cooked meat, or by the inhalation of dust containing the organism.

Symptoms and signs

In most cases anthrax is accompanied by severe symptoms such as fever and prostration. When it appears as a skin infection, it begins as a red itching pimple which soon changes into a blister and within the next 36 hours progresses into a large boil with a sloughing centre surrounded by a ring of pimples. Alternatively it may take the form of a painless widespread swelling of the skin which shortly breaks down to form pus in the area.

The gastro-intestinal form of anthrax resembles food poisoning with diarrhoea and bloody faeces. The lung form develops into a rapidly fatal pneumonia.


Should a case of anthrax occur at sea, which is unlikely unless as a result of handling animals, hides, skins, etc., all dressings or other material that come into contact with the discharge must be burnt or disposed of by disinfection.

Instruments must be used to handle dressings as far as possible, and the instruments must subsequently be sterilised by vigorous boiling for not less than 30 minutes, since the spores of the anthrax germ are difficult to kill.

Treatment is not easy on board and the patient should be put ashore as soon as possible. In the meantime treatment is with Penicillin

No attempt at surgical treatment (incision or lancing of the sore) should be

made as it does no good. Cover the sore with a dressing.

Seek advice from a Port Health Authority about the treatment of cargo.


Cellulitis (Erysipelas)

French: Erysipèle

German: Erysipel

Incubation Period:1 to 7 days

Period of communicability: None

Isolation Period: None

Quarantine Period: None

Italian: Erisipela

Spanish: Erisipela

This disease is an acute inflammatory condition of the skin caused by a germ entering the body through a scratch or abrasion. Cellulitis occurs anywhere, but most commonly on the legs, arms and face.

The onset is sudden with shivering, and a general feeling of malaise. The temperature rises rapidly and may reach about 40oC. The affected area becomes acutely inflamed and red on the first or second day of the infection and the inflammation spreads rapidly outwards with a well-marked, raised, and advancing edge. As the disease advances the portions of the skin first attacked become less inflamed and exhibit a yellowish appearance. Blisters may appear on the inflamed area which can be very painful.

General treatment

The patient must be kept in bed during the acute stage.

Specific treatment

Give the patient benzyl penicillin 600 mg followed by oral antibiotic treatment. Paracetamol can be given to ease the pain.

Chickenpox (Varicella)

French: Varicelle

German: Windpocken Italian: Varicella

Spanish: Varicela

Incubation Period: 14 to 21 days, usually 14

Period of communicability: Up to 5 days before the onset of the rash and 5 days after the first crop of vesicles

Isolation Period: Until the vesicles become dry

Quarantine Period: None

This highly infectious disease starts with fever and feeling unwell. Within a day or two the rash appears on the trunk but soon spreads to the face and elsewhere, even sometimes to the throat and palate.

The rash starts as red pimples which quickly change into small blisters (vesicles) filled with clear fluid which may become slightly coloured and sticky during the second day. Within a day or two the blisters burst or shrivel up and become covered with a brownish scab. Successive crops of spots appear for up to five days. Although usually a mild disease, sometimes the rash is more severe and very rarely pneumonia may occur.


A member of the crew who has had chickenpox, and therefore has immunity, could make a suitable nurse. If all of the crew have had chickenpox in the past then there is no need to isolate the patient. The patient need not be confined to bed unless he is unwell. He should be told not to scratch, especially not to scratch his face otherwise pock marks may remain for life. Calamine lotion, if available, dabbed onto the spots may ease the itching.





French: Choléra

German: Cholera

Italian: Coléra

Incubation Period: 1 to 5 days, usually 2–3 days

Period of communicability: Usually for a few days after recovery Isolation Period: Until diarrhoea has settled

Quarantine Period: 5 days

Spanish: Cólera

Cholera is a severe bacterial infection of the bowel producing profuse watery diarrhoea, muscular cramps, vomiting and rapid collapse. Infection occurs principally through drinking infected water and sometimes through eating contaminated uncooked vegetables, fruit, shell fish or ice cream. It generally occurs in areas where sanitation is poor and where untreated sewage has contaminated drinking water. Other bacterial and viral causes of diarrhoea can sometimes produce a similar clinical picture and may be just as severe.

Symptoms and signs

Most cases are mild and will not be differentiated from any other form of diarrhoea. In a severe case the onset is abrupt, the vomiting and diarrhoea extreme with the faeces at first yellowish and later pale and watery, containing little white shreds of mucus resembling rice grains. The temperature is below normal, and the pulse rapid and feeble. The frequent copious watery faeces rapidly produce dehydration. Vomiting is profuse, first of food but soon changing to a thin fluid similar to the water passed by the bowel. Cramps of an agonising character attack the limbs and abdomen, and the patient rapidly passes into a state of collapse.

As the result of the loss of fluid, the cheeks fall in, the eyes become shrunken and the skin loses its normal springiness and will not quickly return to its normal shape when pinched. The body becomes cold and covered with a clammy sweat, the urine is scanty, the breathing rapid and shallow, and the voice is sunk to a whisper. The patient is now restless, with muscle cramps induced by loss of salt, and feebly complaining of intense thirst. This stage may rapidly terminate in death or equally rapidly turn to convalescence. In the latter case the cessation of vomiting and purging and the return of some warmth to the skin will herald convalescence.


If there is a suspected case of cholera on board RADIO MEDICAL ADVICE ON MANAGEMENT SHOULD BE OBTAINED PROMPTLY.

The patient should be isolated and put to bed at once. Every effort should be made to replace fluid and salt loss. Therefore, keep a fluid balance chart. The patient should be told that his life depends on drinking enough and he should be encouraged and if necessary almost forced to drink as much as possible until all signs of dehydration disappear (until his urine output is back to normal). Thereafter he should drink about 300 ml after each stool until the diarrhoea stops. It is best to drink oral rehydration solution (ORS), if this is not available, make up a solution from 20 gm of sugar with a pinch of salt and a pinch of sodium bicarbonate and juice from an orange in 500 ml sterile water.

Give Doxycycline 200 mg first dose then 100 mg once daily. If vomiting, give an antiemetic tablet or injection before each dose. The patient must be kept in bed until seen by a doctor.


Cholera is a disease which is transmitted from person to person. If cholera is suspected, the ship’s water supply must be thoroughly treated to make sure that it is safe. The disposal of infected faeces and vomit must be controlled carefully since they are highly infectious. The hygiene precautions of all attendants must be of an order to prevent them also becoming infected and all food preparation on board must be reviewed.


Dengue fever

French: Dengue

German: Denguefieber; Siebentagefieber

Italian: Dengue; Febbra dei sette giorni

Spanish: Fiebre dengue

Incubation Period: 3 to 14 days, usually 7 to 10 days.

Period of communicability: No person to person transmission. Infective for mosquitoes for about 5 days from just before the end of the febrile period. Isolation Period: None

Quarantine Period: None

This is an acute fever of about 7 days’ duration conveyed by a mosquito. It is sometimes called break-bone fever. It is an unpleasant, painful disease which is rarely fatal. A severe form of the disease, dengue haemorrhagic fever, can occur in children. Features of the disease are its sudden onset with a high fever, severe headache and aching behind the eyeballs, and intense pain in the joints and muscles, especially in the small of the back.

The face may swell up and the eyes suffuse but no rash appears at this stage. Occasionally an itchy rash resembling that of measles but bright red in colour appears on the fourth or fifth day of the illness. It starts on the hands and feet from which it spreads to other parts of the body, but remains most dense on the limbs. After the rash fades, the skin dries and the surface flakes.

After about the fourth day the fever subsides, but it may recur some three days later before subsiding again by the tenth day.

General treatment

There is no specific treatment, but paracetamol will relieve some of the pain, and calamine lotion, if available, may ease the itching of the rash. Control is by removal of Aedes mosquitoes.


French: Diphtérie

German: Diphterie

Italian: Difterite

Spanish: Difteria

Incubation Period: 2 to 5 days

Period of communicability: Usually less than 2 weeks, shorter if the patient receives antibiotics Isolation Period: 2 weeks

Quarantine Period: None

Diphtheria is an acute infectious disease characterised by the formation of a membrane in the throat and nose. The onset is gradual and starts with a sore throat and fever accompanied by shivering. The throat symptoms increase, swallowing being painful and difficult, and whitish-grey patches of membrane become visible on the back of the throat, the tonsils and the palate. The patches look like wash leather and bleed on being touched. The neck glands swell, and the breath is foul. The fever may last for two weeks with severe prostration. Bacterial toxins may cause fatal heart failure and muscle paralysis.

General treatment

Immediate isolation is essential as diphtheria is very infectious, the infection being spread by aerosols.

Specific treatment

Specific treatment is diphtheria anti-toxin which should be given at the earliest possible opportunity if the patient can get to medical attention. Antibiotic treatment should be given to all cases to limit the spread of infection but it will not neutralise toxin which has already been produced.




Enteric fever – typhoid

French: Fièvre typhoide

German: Typhus abdominalis

Italian: Febbre tifoidea

Spanish: Fiebre tifoidea

Incubation Period: 1 to 3 weeks, depending on size of infecting dose Period of communicability: Usually less than 2 weeks. Prolonged carriage of salmonella typhi may occur in some of those not treated.

Isolation Period: Variable.

Quarantine Period: None

The term enteric fever covers typhoid and para-typhoid fevers. Enteric fever is contracted by drinking water or eating food that has been contaminated with typhoid germs. Seafarers are advised to be very careful where they eat and drink when ashore. Immunisation gives reasonable protection against typhoid but not para-typhoid.

In general the para-typhoids are milder and tend to have a shorter course. The disease may have a wide variety of symptoms depending on the severity of the attack. Nevertheless, typhoid fever, however mild, is a disease which must be treated seriously, not only because of its possible effect upon the patient, but also to prevent it spreading to others who may not have been immunised. Strict attention must be given to hygiene and cleanliness and all clothing and soiled linen must be disinfected.

Read also  Epidemiology_ Psychiatry and Mental Health Professionals

During the first week the patient feels off-colour and apathetic, he may have a persistent headache, poor appetite, and sometimes nose bleeding. There is some abdominal discomfort and usually constipation. These symptoms increase until he is forced to go to bed. At this stage his temperature begins to rise in steps reaching about 39–40ºC in the evenings. For about two weeks it never drops back to normal even in the mornings.

Any person who is found with a persistent temperature of this kind should always be suspected of having typhoid, especially if his pulse rate remains basically normal. In 10 to 20% of cases, from about the seventh day, characteristic rose-pink spots may appear on the lower chest, abdomen and back, which if pressed with the finger will disappear and return when pressure is released. Each spot lasts about 3–4 days and they continue to appear in crops until the end of the second week or longer. Search for them in a good light, especially in dark-skinned races.

During the second week, mental apathy, confusion and delirium may occur. In the more favourable cases the patient will commence recovery but in the worst cases his condition will continue to deteriorate and may terminate in deep coma and death. Even where the patient appears to be recovering, he may suffer a relapse. There are a variety of complications but the most dangerous are haemorrhage from, or perforation of, the bowel. Where the faeces are found to contain blood at any stage of the disease the patient must be kept as immobile as possible and put on a milk and water diet. If the bowel is perforated, peritonitis will set in.

General treatment

Anyone suspected of having typhoid or para-typhoid fever should be kept in bed in strict isolation until seen by a doctor. The patient’s urine and faeces are highly infectious, as may be his vomit. These should all be disposed of. The attendants and others coming into the room should wash their hands thoroughly after handling the bedpan or washing the patient, and before leaving the room.

The patient should be encouraged to drink as much as possible and a fluid input/output chart should be maintained. He can eat as much as he wants, but it is best if the food is light.

Specific treatment

If you suspect somebody has enteric fever get RADIO MEDICAL ADVICE. Give ciprofloxacin 500 mg every 12 hours for one week. On this treatment the fever and all symptoms should respond within 4–5 days.

All cases should be seen by a doctor at the first opportunity. The case notes including details of the amount of medicine given should be sent with the patient.


German measles – rubella

French: Rubéole

German: Röteln

Italian: Rosolia

Spanish: Rubéola

Incubation Period: 14 to 23 days, usually 17

Period of communicability: For about 1 week before to at least 4 days after the onset of the rash Isolation Period: Until 7 days from the appearance of the rash Quarantine Period: None

German measles is a highly infectious, though mild disease. It has features similar to those of mild attacks of ordinary measles or of scarlet fever. For the differences in symptoms and signs see the table.

Usually the first sign of the disease is a rash of spots, though sometimes there will be headache, stiffness and soreness of the muscles, and some slight fever preceding or accompanying the rash. The rash is absent in half the cases and lasts from 5 to 6 days. The glands towards the back of the neck are swollen and can easily be felt. This is an important distinguishing sign. This swelling will precede the rash by up to 10 days.

General treatment

Give the patient paracetamol, and calamine lotion, if available, for the rash.

Specific treatment

NOTE: Particular care should be taken to isolate patients with German measles from pregnant women: Any pregnant woman on board should see a doctor ashore as soon as possible so that her immunity to rubella can be confirmed. If a patient has seen his wife in the last week he should be asked whether his wife might be pregnant. If so, his wife should be advised to see her doctor.

Glandular fever – infectious mononucleosis

French: Fièvre glandulaire; Mononucleose infectieuse

German: Drusenfieber; Infektiose Mononukleose

Italian: Febbre ghiandolare (Mononucleosi infettiva)

Spanish: Fiebre glandular (Mononucleosis infecciosa)

Incubation Period: 4 to 6 weeks

Period of communicability: Prolonged, excretion of virus may persist for a

year or more Isolation Period: None

Quarantine Period: None

This malady is an acute infection which is most likely to affect the young members of the crew. Convalescence may take up to two or three months.

The disease starts with a gradual increase in temperature and a sore throat; a white covering often develops later over the tonsils. At this stage it is likely to be diagnosed as tonsillitis and treated as such. However it tends not to respond to such treatment and, during this time, a generalised enlargement of glands occurs. The glands of the neck, armpit and groins start to swell, and become tender; those in the neck to a considerable extent.

The patient may have difficulty in eating or swallowing. His temperature may go very high and he may sweat profusely. Occasionally there is jaundice between the fifth and fourteenth day. Commonly there is a blotchy skin rash on the upper trunk and arms at the end of the first week. Vague abdominal pain is sometimes a feature. A diagnosis of diphtheria may be considered due to the appearance of the tonsils, but the generalised glandular enlargement is typical of glandular fever.

General treatment

Paracetamol should be given to relieve pain and to moderate the temperature. Any antibiotics which have been prescribed to treat the tonsillitis should be discontinued. There is no specific treatment. If complications arise get RADIO MEDICAL ADVICE.




Hepatitis (viral)

French: Hépatite : Hepatitis

German: Hepatitis

Italian: Epatite

Spanish: Hepatitis

Incubation Period: 15 to 50 days for hepatitis A, 60 to 90 days for hepatitis B (may be much longer)

Period of communicability: None after jaundice has appeared in hepatitis A, can be indefinite for hepatitis B

Isolation Period: During first week of illness

Quarantine Period: None

This is an acute infection of the liver caused by viruses. There are two main causes of acute hepatitis: hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Two other viruses may cause hepatitis (C and E), but these are uncommon. The most likely cause will be hepatitis A and this is spread by the faecal-oral route (as is hepatitis E). Hepatitis B is spread sexually or by contaminated blood or needles. There is no way of differentiating one type of viral hepatitis from another. The urine and faeces will show the typical changes associated with jaundice.


There is no specific treatment. The patient should be put to bed and nursed in isolation. Plenty of sweetened fluids should be given until the appetite returns. When the appetite returns a fat-free diet should be given. No alcohol should be allowed. All cases must be seen by a doctor at the next port.


French: Grippe; Influenza

German: Epidemische Influenza; Grippe

Italian: Influenza

Spanish: Influenza; Grippe

Incubation Period: 1 to 5 days

Period of communicability: 3 to 5 days (7 in children) from the onset of illness Isolation Period: Often impractical because of the delay in diagnosis. In an outbreak it would be advisable to keep all affected individuals together and away from those who are well Quarantine Period: none

This is an acute infectious disease caused by a germ inhaled through the nose or mouth. It often occurs in epidemics. The onset is sudden and the symptoms are, at first, the same as those of the common cold. Later the patient feels much worse with fits of shivering, and severe aching of the limbs and back. Depression, shortness of breath, palpitations, and headaches, are common. Influenza may vary in severity. Commonly a sharp unpleasant feverish attack is followed by a prompt fall in temperature and a short convalescence. Pneumonia is a possible complication.

General treatment

The patient should be subject to standard isolation. He should be watched for signs of pneumonia such as pains in the chest, rapid breathing and a bluish tinge to the lips. He should be given plenty to drink and a light and nutritious diet if he can manage it.

Specific treatment

There is no specific treatment for the uncomplicated case, but the patient should be given paracetamol as needed.



French: Paludisme

German: Malaria

Italian: Malaria Spanish: Paludismo

Incubation Period: 12 days or more, depending on the type of malaria Period of communicability: The patient will remain infectious for mosquitoes until they have been completely treated

Isolation Period: None if in mosquito-proof accommodation

Quarantine Period: None

Malaria is a recurrent fever caused by protozoa introduced into the blood stream by the bite of the Anopheles mosquito. The malaria-carrying mosquito is most prevalent in districts where there is surface water on which it lays its eggs. It is a dangerous tropical disease which causes fever, debility and, sometimes, coma and death.

Malarial areas

Ports between latitudes 25ºN and 25ºS on the coasts of Africa (including Malagassy), Asia, and Central and South America should be regarded as infected or potentially infected with malaria. Enquiries should be made prior to departure to allow appropriate prophylaxis to be arranged and treatment drugs obtained. Before arrival in port further enquiries should be made as to the current malaria situation and prophylaxis issued to the crew if necessary.

Prevention of malaria

The risks of attacks of malaria can be very greatly reduced if proper precautions are taken and the disease can be cured if proper treatment is given. Despite this, cases have occurred in ships where several members of the crew have been attacked by malaria during a single voyage with severe and even fatal results.

The precautions are:

s avoidance of mosquito bites;

s prevention of infection.

Avoidance of mosquito bites

The best way to prevent malarial infection is to take measures to avoid being bitten. The advent of air conditioned ships has made many traditional preventive measures obsolete. However, when within two miles of a malarial shore it remains important that: s doors are kept closed at all times after dusk;

s any mosquitoes which enter compartments are killed using insecticide spray; s persons going on deck or ashore after dusk wear long sleeved shirts and trousers to avoid

exposing their arms and legs;

s no pools of stagnant water are allowed to develop on deck or in life boats, where

mosquitoes might breed.

In ships which are not air conditioned other traditional measures to protect against mosquitoes should be implemented. These include:

s placing fine wire mesh over portholes, sky lights, ventilators and other openings; s screening lights to avoid attracting mosquitoes;

s fixing mosquito nets over beds where accommodation spaces cannot be made mosquito


Prevention of infection

The fewer the bites, the smaller is the risk of infection but even when the greatest care is exercised it will seldom be possible entirely to prevent mosquito bites either on shore or in the




ship. For this reason in all cases when a ship is bound for a malarial port, Masters (in addition to taking all possible measures to prevent mosquito bites) should control infection by giving treatment systematically to all the ship’s crew.

Preventive treatment (prophylaxis) does not always prevent a person from contracting malarial infection, but it will reduce the chance of disease. All persons, therefore, should be warned that they have been exposed to the chance of malaria infection and that, if they fall ill at a later date, they should inform their doctor without delay that the fever from which they are then suffering may be due to malaria contracted abroad. The most appropriate prophylaxis will vary with the location as there are different types of malaria in various parts of the world. There is also increasing resistance to anti-malarials which will affect their effectiveness. Up to date information should be obtained before departure if possible or from the

local health authorities.

General guidelines

Start taking the prophylaxis before arrival at a malarial area in accordance with specific instructions and depending on the region. (Usually 1-3 weeks before departure).This will allow the tolerance and side-effects (if any) of the prophylactic drug to be assessed. Prophylaxis should be continued for 4 weeks after leaving the malarial area so as to ensure all stages of the parasite have been killed.

No drugs for the treatment of malaria are specified in the MSN 1726 as the advice varies with destination and the pattern of disease in any given malarial area at the time. For information, the UK’s present guidelines recommend 3 different regimes depending on destination:

s Proguanil 200 mg once daily and chloroquine 300 mg weekly

s Mefloquine 250 mg once weekly

s Maloprim (a combined tablet of dapsone and pyrimethamine) 1 tablet weekly and

chloroquine 300 mg weekly

Other regimes may be used in areas of high level resistance

Treatment of malaria

Features of the illness

Malaria cannot be diagnosed with certainty without laboratory assistance. If the person has been in a potentially malarial area within the last few months and has a fever they should be assumed to have malaria. The characteristic patterns of fever associated with malaria (fever every 2 to 3 days) may not be obvious. The illness may progress rapidly without many features other than fever and sweating. There will often be a severe headache. If there is any doubt about whether to treat or not get RADIO MEDICAL ADVICE.

General treatment for mild or severe malaria

The patient should be put to bed in a cool place and his temperature, pulse and respiration taken four hourly. If body temperature rises to 40oC or over, cooling should be carried out. The temperature should be taken and recorded at 15 minute intervals until it has been normal for some time. Thereafter the four-hourly recording should be resumed until the attack has definitely passed.

Specific treatment for mild or severe malaria

Anti-malarial drugs are not specified in MSN 1726 as treatment depends on the area and patterns of resistance. If anti-malarials are to be carried seek appropriate advice on which to obtain/use.

The following examples of current regimes are given for information: s Quinine 600 mg every 8 hours for 7 days followed by Fansidar (see below) 3 tablets as a

single dose


s Mefloquine 500 mg (2 tablets) for 2 doses 8 hours apart


Chloroquine is not used for treatment except for proven single infections with vivax and other benign malarias because of drug resistance. If quinine, Fansidar or mefloquine are not available then chloroquine 300 mg 8 hourly for three doses then 300 mg daily for 2 days should be used.

If the patient is unable to take medicine by mouth or is vomiting then quinine 600 mg should be given by intramuscular injection every 8 hours. As soon as the patient is able to swallow it should be given by mouth. Quinine may produce ringing in the ears or dizziness, but this should not normally be a reason to stop treatment.

NOTE: All patients who have been treated for malaria or suspected malaria must see a doctor at the next port because further medical treatment may be necessary.


French: Rougeole

German: Masern

Italian: Morbillo

Spanish: Sarampion

Incubation Period: 7 to 18 days usually 10 until onset of fever, 14 days until rash Period of communicability: about 10 days, minimally infectious after the second day of the rash Isolation Period: 4 days after onset of rash

Quarantine Period: None

Measles does not often occur in adults. See also the sections on German measles and scarlet fever and the table of differences of symptoms.

The disease starts like a cold in the head, with sneezing, a running nose and eyes, headache, cough and a slight fever 37.5ºC–39ºC. During the next two days the catarrh extends to the throat causing hoarseness and a cough. A careful examination of the mouth during this period may reveal minute white or bluish white spots the size of a pin’s head on the inner side of the cheeks, or the tongue and inner side of the lips. These are known a ‘Koplik spots’ and are not found in German measles and scarlet fever.

The rash appears on the fourth day when the temperature increases to 39–40ºC. Pale rose-coloured spots first appear on the face and spread down to cover the rest of the body. The spots run together to form a mottled blotched appearance. The rash deepens in colour as it gets older. In four or five days the rash begins to fade, starting where it first appeared. The skin may peel. The main danger of measles is that the patient may get bronchitis, pneumonia or middle ear infection.

General treatment

This highly infectious disease is conveyed to others when the patient coughs

or sneezes. There is no specific treatment, but the patient may have paracetamol. Calamine lotion, if available, may be applied to soothe the rash.

Meningococcal disease (meningitis and septicaemia)

French: Méningite cérébro-spinal épidémique

German: Epidemische Meningitis Cerebro-spinal

Italian: Meningite cerebro-spinal epidemica

Spanish: Meningitis cerebro-spinal epidemica

Incubation Period: 2 to 10 days, usually 3 to 4

Period of communicability: Generally not communicable whilst the patient is on antibiotics Isolation Period: For 24 hours after the start of antibiotics Quarantine Period: None

Infection caused by the meningococcus (a bacterium) can cause either meningitis, with inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, or a septicaemia characterised by a generalised rash that does not fade on pressure. Unless treated promptly and effectively, the outcome is nearly always fatal. It occurs in epidemics which may affect closed communities such as a ship. The infection enters by the nose and mouth. Meningitis starts suddenly with fever, considerable headache and vomiting. Within the first day the temperature increases rapidly to 39ºC or more and the headache becomes agonising.




Vomiting increases and there is general backache with pain and stiffness in the neck. Intolerance of light (photophobia) is usually present. The patient may be intensely irritable and resent all interference, or may even be delirious.

As the meningitis develops the patient adopts a characteristic posture in

bed, lying on the side with his back to the light, knees drawn up and neck bent backwards. Unconsciousness with incontinence may develop.

The septicaemia caused by the meningococcus also starts suddenly with a flu like illness. A rash develops quickly, starting with pin prick like spots which will not blanche when pressed. This rash may progress to form large dark red areas.

Individual cases may vary in the speed of onset, the severity of the illness and the clinical features which are present.

If meningitis is suspected get RADIO MEDICAL ADVICE and it will help the doctor if the results of the two following tests are available:

The neck bending test

Ask the patient to attempt to put his chin on his chest. In meningitis the patient will be unable to do so because forward neck movement will be greatly restricted by muscle contraction. Try to increase the range of forward movement by pushing gently on the back of his head. The neck muscles will contract even more to prevent the movement and the headache and backache will be increased.

The knee straightening test

– Figure 6.1

A. Bend one leg until the heel is

close to the buttock.

(A) Bend one leg until the heel

is close to the buttock.

B. Move the bent leg to lie over

the abdomen.

C. Keeping the thigh as in (B) try

to straighten the lower leg.

In meningitis it will be impossible

to straighten the knee beyond a

right angle and attempts to force

movement will increase the


(B) Move the bended leg

to lie over the abdomen.

General treatment

The patient should be nursed in a

quiet, well-ventilated room with

shaded lights in strict isolation. He

should be accompanied at all

times by an attendant who should

wear a face mask to cover his nose

and mouth. Tepid sponging may

be necessary and pressure points

should be treated. Usually there is

no appetite but he should be

encouraged to drink plenty of

fluid. Ice packs may help to relieve

the headache.

(C) Keeping the thigh

as in (B) try to straighten

the lower leg.

Figure 6.1 The knee straightening test.

Specific treatment

Give benzyl penicillin 3 g intramuscularly at once, and get RADIO MEDICAL ADVICE as to the amount and frequency of subsequent injections of benzyl penicillin. Until such advice is received, give benzyl penicillin 2.4 g at six hourly intervals. The headache should be treated with codeine. The patient should come under the care of a doctor as soon as possible.



French: Oreillons

Italian: Malaria Orecchioni

German: Mumps – Ziegenpeter

Spanish: Orejones

Incubation Period: 12 to 26 days, usually 18

Period of communicability: 7 days before glandular swelling and up to 9 days after Isolation Period: 9 days after swelling started

Quarantine Period: None

Mumps is a viral disease which causes the swelling of the salivary glands in front of the ears and around the angle of the jaw. The swelling usually affects both sides of the face though it may only affect one side and it may make the mouth difficult to open. The onset is usually sudden and may be accompanied by a slight fever. The swelling gradually diminishes and should disappear entirely in about 3 weeks.

About 20% of men with mumps get orchitis which is the swelling of one or both testicles; when this occurs it usually happens around the tenth day. Whilst very painful, orchitis does not usually result in infertility and never in impotence.

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General treatment

The patient should be put in standard isolation for 9 days and stay in bed for 4 to 5 days or until the fever is no longer present. He can be given paracetamol to relieve the symptoms, but there is no specific treatment.

If he develops swollen painful testicles (orchitis) he should stay in bed. He should support the scrotum on a pad or small pillow. The testicles should also be supported if the patient gets up for any reason.


French: Peste

German: Pest

Italian: Peste

Spanish: Peste

Incubation Period: 2 to 6 days

Period of communicability: As long as infected fleas are present. Person to person spread is uncommon except with plague pneumonia.

Isolation Period: For 3 days after the start of antibiotic treatment Quarantine Period: 6 days

Plague is a serious bacterial disease transmitted to man by infected rat fleas. It may present in three ways

Bubonic in which buboes (swollen lymph nodes) are the most obvious feature. The nodes are painful and may ooze pus.

Pneumonic in which pneumonia is the main feature. The type of plague is very infectious as the sputum contains the plague bacterium.

Septicaemic which is rapidly fatal.

The attack begins suddenly with severe malaise, shivering, pains in the back and sometimes vomiting. The patient becomes prostrated and is confused. His temperature reaches about oC C and the pulse is rapid. After about 2 days the buboes may develop, most commonly in 38

the groins. The buboes may soften into abscesses.

General treatment

The patient should be cared for by an attendant who should wear a face mask to cover his nose and mouth The patient should be isolated and taken as soon as possible to a port where he can be treated. He should rest in bed, be encouraged to drink as much fluid as possible and have a very light diet. If the abscesses burst they should be dressed with a simple dressing, but they must not be lanced. Soiled linen and bed clothes should be boiled for 10 minutes or destroyed.




Specific treatment

Give Doxycycline 100 mg once daily for at least 5 days. The patient should remain on complete bed rest during convalescence.


Plague should be notified to the local health authorities at the next port of call. The quarters of the patient and the crew should be treated with insecticide powder and dust to ensure the destruction of fleas.


Dead rats should be picked up with tongs, placed in a plastic bag, which should be sealed with string, weighted and thrown overboard; if the ship is in port, the dead rats should be disposed of in the manner required by the port medical health authority.

Poliomyelitis – infantile paralysis

French: Poliomyélite

Italian: Poliomielite

German: Poliomyelitis

Spanish: Poliomielitis

Incubation Period: 3–21 days, commonly 7–14 days

Period of communicability: Cases are most infectious during the first few days before and after the onset of symptoms

Isolation Period: Not more than 7 days

Quarantine Period None

Poliomyelitis is an acute viral disease that occurs mostly in children. It is

a disease almost entirely preventable by immunisation.

The severity ranges from non-apparent infection to non-specific febrile illness, meningitis, paralytic disease and death. Symptoms of the mild disease include fever, malaise, headache, nausea and vomiting. If the disease progresses, severe muscle pain and stiffness of the neck and back, with or without paralysis will occur. The most commonly affected parts are the legs and arms, shoulders, diaphragm and chest muscles. The development of paralysis is generally complete within two days and then recovery begins. The recovery may be complete or leave some degree of paralysis

Affected muscles are usually painful and tender if touched. They are always limp and movements of the affected parts are either weakened or lost by the wasting which appears very soon after paralysis.

Paralysis of the respiratory muscles may cause breathlessness and blueness of the lips.

General treatment

There is no specific treatment but much can be achieved by good nursing. The patient should have complete rest in bed. Pain should be treated with paracetamol and/or codeine. If a limb has been affected it should be supported by pillows in such a way that the paralysed muscles cannot be stretched. The joints above and below the paralysis should be put through a full range of movement morning and evening to prevent stiffness. In all cases, as soon as paralysis appears, RADIO MEDICAL ADVICE must be sought. If the respiratory muscles are affected, breathing difficulty may ensue. Urgent steps must be taken to get the patient to skilled hospital treatment as soon as possible.


Rabies – hydrophobia

French: La rage

German: Tollwut

Italian: Rabbia

Spanish: Rabia

Incubation Period: in humans the incubation period is usually 2 to 12 weeks, shortest for patients bitten about the head and those with extensive bites Communicability: Rabies is rarely, if ever, spread from human to human. Nevertheless for the duration of the illness contamination with saliva should be avoided by wearing gloves when nursing the patient

Isolation Period: Duration of the illness

Quarantine Period:

Rabies is an acute infectious viral disease that is almost always fatal. When a rabid mammal bites humans or other animals, its saliva transmits the infection into the wound, from where it spreads to the central nervous system. Rabies is primarily an infection of wild animals such as skunks, coyotes, foxes, wolves, racoons, bats, squirrels, rabbits, and chipmunks. The most common domestic animals reported to have rabies are dogs, cats, cattle, horses. mules, sheep, goats, and swine. It is possible for rabies to be transmitted if infective saliva enters a scratch or fresh break in the skin.

The development of the disease in a bitten person can be prevented by immediate and proper treatment, Once symptoms of rabies develop, death is virtually certain to result. Thus prevention of this disease is of the utmost importance.

Local port authorities should be informed of possible rabid animals, so that appropriate public health measures can be instituted.


As soon as an individual aboard ship Is known to have been bitten by a dog or other possibly rabid animal, RADIO MEDICAL ADVICE should he obtained at once. Usually suspected cases are sent ashore to obtain the expert treatment

and nursing care needed to prevent the disease.

Immediate local care should be given. Vigorous treatment to remove rabies virus from the bites or other exposures to the animal’s saliva may be as important as specific anti-rabies treatment. Free bleeding from the wound should be encouraged. Other local care should consist of:

s thorough irrigation of the wounds with soap or detergent water solution; s cleansing with antiseptic solution;

s if recommended by radio, giving an antibiotic to prevent infection: s administering adsorbed tetanus toxoid, if indicated.

s Suturing of bite wounds should be avoided.


When abroad, seamen should keep away from warm-blooded animals especially cats, dogs. and other carnivores. It is strongly advised that pets should not be carried on board ship as these may become infected unnoticed, through contact with rabid animals in ports.




Scarlet fever

French: Scarlatine

German: Scharlach

Italian: Scarlattina

Spanish: Escarlatina

Incubation Period: 1 to 3 days

Period of communicability: 3 days

Isolation Period: 14 days in untreated cases, 1 to 2 days if given antibiotics. Quarantine Period: None

Scarlet fever is not often contracted by adults. It has features similar to those of measles and German measles; see the table of differences of symptoms.

The onset is generally sudden and the temperature may rapidly rise to 39.5 to 40ºC on the first day. With the fever the other main early symptom is a sore throat, which in most cases is very severe. The skin is hot and burning to the touch. The rash appears on the second day and consists of tiny bright red spots so close together that the skin assumes a scarlet or boiled lobster-like colour. It usually appears first on the neck, very rapidly spreads to the upper part of the chest and then to the rest of the body. There may be an area around the mouth which is clear of the rash.

The tongue at first is covered with white fur and, when this goes, it becomes a very bright red (strawberry). The high fever usually lasts about a week. As the rash fades the skin peels in circular patches. The danger of scarlet fever arises from the complications associated with it, e.g. inflammation of the kidneys (test the urine for protein once a day), inflammation of the ear due to the spread of infection from the throat, rheumatism and heart disease. These complications can be avoided by careful treatment.

General treatment

The patient must stay in bed and be kept as quiet as possible. The patient can be given paracetamol to relieve the pain in the throat which may also be helped if he takes plenty of cold drinks. He can take such food as he wishes.

Specific treatment

As scarlet fever usually follows from a sore throat or tonsillitis you may already be giving him the relevant treatment. Otherwise give the specific treatment for tonsillitis.

Tetanus – lockjaw

French: Tetanos

German: Wundstarrkrampf

Italian: Tetano

Spanish: Tetanos

Incubation Period: 4 to 21 days

Period of communicability: No person to person transmission

Isolation Period: None

Quarantine Period: None

Tetanus is caused by the infection of a wound by the tetanus bacterium which secretes a powerful poison (toxin). This bacterium is very widespread in nature and the source of the wound infection may not always be easy to trace. Puncture wounds are particularly liable to be dangerous and overlooked as a point of entry. In the UK immunisation against the disease usually begins in childhood but it is necessary to have further periodic inoculations to maintain effective immunity. Fortunately the disease is a very rare condition on board ship. The first signs of the disease may be spasms or stiffening of the jaw muscles and, sometimes, other muscles of the face leading to difficulty in opening the mouth and swallowing. The spasms tend to become more frequent and spread to the neck and back causing the patient’s body to become arched.

The patient remains fully conscious during the spasms which are extremely painful and brought on by external stimulus such as touch, noise or bright light. The patient is progressively exhausted until heart and lung failure prove fatal. Alternatively, the contractions may become less frequent and the patient recovers, but there is a high mortality.


The patient should be isolated in a darkened room as far as possible from all disturbances. Get RADIO MEDICAL ADVICE. Give antibiotic treatment and give diazepam or chlorpromazine as sedation and to control spasms. The patient must be got to hospital as soon as possible.


Tuberculosis – TB, consumptIon

French: Tuberculose

German: Tuberkulose Italian: Tuberculosis

Spanish: Tuberculosis

Incubation Period: 4 to 12 weeks

Period of communicability: indefinite, 2 weeks after antibiotics Isolation Period: depends on the degree of infection, rarely necessary Quarantine Period: None

This infectious disease is caused by the tubercle bacillus. Although the lung (pulmonary) disease is the most common, TB bacteria may attack other tissues in the body: bones. joints. glands, or kidneys. Unlike most contagious diseases, tuberculosis usually takes a considerable time to develop, often appearing only after repeated, close, and prolonged exposures to a patient with the active disease. A healthy body is usually able to control the tubercle bacilli unless the invasion is overwhelming or resistance is low because of chronic alcoholism, poor nutrition, or some other weakening condition.

The pulmonary form of the disease is spread most often by coughing and sneezing. A person may have tuberculosis for a long time before it is detected. Symptoms may consist of nothing more than a persistent cough, slight loss of weight, night sweats, and a continual ‘all-in‘ or ‘tired-out‘ feeling that persists when there is no good reason for it. More definitive signs pointing to tuberculosis are a cough that persists for more than a month, raising sputum with each cough. persistent or recurring pains in the chest, and afternoon rises in temperature. When he reaches a convenient port, a seaman with one or more of these warning signs should see a physician.


Every effort should be made to prevent anyone who has active tuberculosis

from going to sea. since this would present a risk to the crew’s health as well as the individual’s. The treatment of tuberculosis by medication will not usually be started at sea, since the disease does not constitute an emergency.

To prevent the spread of tuberculosis, every patient with a cough, irrespective of its cause, should hold disposable tissues over his mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and place the used tissues in a paper bag, which should be disposed of by burning. The medical attendant should follow good nursing isolation techniques (see Isolation Chapter 3). No special precautions are necessary for handling the patient’s bedclothes, eating utensils, and personal clothing.

Tuberculosis control

A tuberculosis control programme has three objectives: (I) to keep individuals with the disease from signing on as crew-members; (2) to locate those who may have developed the disease while aboard ship and initiate treatment: and (3) to give preventive treatment to persons at high risk of developing the active disease. The first objective can be achieved by periodic, thorough physical examinations including chest X-rays and bacteriological examination of sputum. To identify those who might have developed active tuberculosis, a chest X-ray should be taken and a medical evaluation including bacteriological examination of sputum requested when in port, if a crew-member develops symptoms of a chest cold that persist for more than two weeks.

Also, when any active disease is discovered, survey should be made of close associates of the patient and others in prolonged contact with him. Such persons are regarded as contacts and are considered at risk from the disease; they should be given a tuberculin test and chest X-ray when next in port. If they develop symptoms, full medical examination, including bacteriological examination of sputum, should be requested.




Typhus fever

French: Typhus exanthAematique

Italian: Tifo petecchiale

German: Flecktyphus

Spanish: Tifus petequial

Incubation Period: 6 to 15 days, usually 12

Period of communicability: Not directly transmissible from person to person Isolation Period: not required after de-lousing

Quarantine Period: 14 days

This disease should not be confused with typhoid fever. Typhus is caused by a small bacterium. The disease is conveyed by lice, fleas, ticks and mites. Treatment for the various types of typhus is the same and the symptoms are very similar. The main typhi are epidemic (from lice) and murine, or ship typhus, (from rat fleas).

Symptoms and signs

Onset is sudden with headache, vomiting, shivering and nausea. The temperature rapidly rises and may reach 40.0ºC to 40.6ºC. The patient suffers great prostration, and may be delirious or confused.

About the fifth day a rash appears on the front of the body, spreading to the back and limbs in the form of dusky red spots which give the skin a blotchy appearance. The disease if untreated lasts about two weeks. With tick or mite borne typhus there is usually a punched out black ulcer (eschar) which corresponds to the site of attachment.


In the case of louse-borne typhus isolate the patient at once. Bedding and clothing of the patient and close contacts should be treated with a residual

insecticide. The patient should receive Doxycycline until his temperature settles plus one day. The response is normally prompt.

Whooping cough – pertussis

French: Coqueluche

German: Keuchhusten Italian: Pertosse

Spanish: Tos Ferina

Incubation Period: 7 to 10 days, rarely exceeding 14 days

Period of communicability: 21 days, normally no more than 5 days after antibiotics Isolation Period: 5 days after antibiotics

Quarantine Period: None

This disease occurs among unvaccinated children; unvaccinated adults may contract it. The disease in adults has no typical features.

Symptoms and signs

The onset occurs as a severe cough which after about 7 to 10 days is marked by a typical ‘whoop’, with or without vomiting. The whoop is caused by a convulsive series of coughs reaching a point where the patient must take a breath. It is this noisy indrawing of breath which produces the ‘whoop’. The coughing bouts may be very distressing.


Give erythromycin for 5 days. This is unlikely to affect the course of the disease unless given very early, but it will reduce the infectiousness of the patient. In children, during the bouts of coughing, feeding may induce vomiting. It is best, therefore, to give light food in between the coughing bout and to keep the child quiet in bed.


Yellow fever

French: Fièvre jaune

German: Gelbfieber

Italian Febbra gialla

Spanish: Fiebra amarilla

Incubation Period: 3 to 6 days

Period of communicability: 6 days

Isolation Period: 12 days only if stegomyia mosquitoes are present in the port or on board Quarantine Period: 6 days

This is a serious and often fatal disease which is caused by a virus transmitted to humans by a mosquito. The disease is endemic in Africa from coast to coast between the south of the Sahara and Kenya, and in parts of the Central and Southern Americas.


Travellers to these areas should be inoculated against the disease. Many countries require a valid International Certificate of yellow fever inoculation for those who are going to, or have been in or passed through, such areas. See also the note on prevention of mosquito bites in the section dealing with malaria.

Features of the disease

The severity of the disease differs between patients. In general, from 3 to 6 days after being bitten the patient fluctuates between being shivery and being over hot. He may have a fever as high as 41ºC, headache, backache and severe nausea and tenderness in the pit of the stomach. He may seem to get slightly better but then, usually about the fourth day, he becomes very weak and produces vomit tinged with bile and blood (the so-called ‘black vomit’). The stomach pains increase and the bowels are constipated. The faeces, if any, are coloured black by digested blood. The eyes become yellow (jaundice) and the mind may wander. After the fifth or sixth day the symptoms may subside and the temperature may fall. The pulse can drop from about 120 per minute to 40 or 50. This period is critical leading to recovery or death.

Increasing jaundice and very scanty, or lack of, urine are unfavourable signs. Protein in the urine occurs soon after the start of the illness and the urine should be tested for it.

General treatment

The patient must go to bed and stay in a room free from mosquitoes. The patient must be encouraged to drink as much as possible, fruit juices are recommended.


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