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The Deadliest Diseases One Can Get Today

Updated on October 15, 2014


Although all diseases, illnesses, and infections has an opportunity for it to turn fatal, there are some diseases that the mortality rates are high and there are no cures or no cures once symptoms show. When talking about mortality rates, I am not talking about diseases that infect the most people like influenza or scabies or any of those fun diseases. What I mean is that of those who catch the disease, how many of those infected will die. So most of these diseases actually do not have the high numbers of infecting people but have 70%-100% fatality rates. Caution for those who have anxiety, definitely when it comes to getting sick, some of these can be quite scary toward the end.

crimean-congo haemorrhagic fever virus under the microscope
crimean-congo haemorrhagic fever virus under the microscope | Source

7.Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever

As you can guess by the name, this virus causes haemorrhagic fevers which causes massive bleeding in the brain and results in people bleeding from their ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. It is transmitted by a tick found in parts of Africa and other tropical areas. It can also be transmitted through body fluids so it can be passed from human to human and is a cross-species virus, so any mammals can get this disease.

Symptoms include flu-like symptoms followed by fatigue and unable to stay awake, confusion, and finally bleeding, coma, and death. The mortality rates differ due to different outbreaks in different villages with 40%-90% mortality rate with a average of 65% (CDC and WHO).

Ebola virus under microscope
Ebola virus under microscope | Source

6. Ebola

I know that many people consider Ebola to be more along in the list, but the mortality rate of Ebola is 70% (CDC) while other diseases on this list has 100% mortality rates. What makes this one so scary however is that it had broken out of only affecting small villages in West Africa and is now affecting larger cities and has even crossed continents.

I should mention that it was 70% last month, this month it has decreased into 50%. So what happens when illness start to spread is that the population gets bigger which means there will be more people immune to this disease or body can fight off the disease. So the mortality rate has actually decreased even through the number of infected grew quickly. CDC warns that they think it will go back up to 70% but so far it is hard to really gauge the percentage because of the two big cities starting to get infected so hopefully it will keep decreasing and I can take it off this list.

Note to mention: there has been a series of outbreaks of Ebola in Africa for centuries now, but none were anywhere close to the numbers of infected and casualties it currently (2014) ass. As of October 14th, there has been over over 8,400 infected and 4,033 deaths (CDC 2014).

Due to Ebola being a RNA virus and not a DNA virus, many people and scientists are worried about the possibility of it mutating to airborne. So far the symptoms seem to flu-like symptoms with muscle pain, problems walking or standing, and bleeding. Once a person starts bleeding, it means that the disease is in its final form and death is coming.

Currently, an experimental drug called ZMAPP, has been given to three Americans who contacted the virus, two lived and one died (the theory is the one that passed was too far gone when he got the medication and it was not enough.) Some of the drugs were also shipped to hospital workers in Africa with promising conclusions. Although it is not done going through testing, ZMAPP seems likely to be a cure if everything goes right.

Necrotizing Fascilitis bacteria under the miscoscope
Necrotizing Fascilitis bacteria under the miscoscope | Source

5. Necrotizing Fascilitis

One of the worst bacterial infections a person can get, necrotizing fascilitis is a antibiotic-resistant bacteria that eats away at connective tissues. Usually it is a secondary infection which means that that bacteria gets inside the body from a infection already present, usually a cut, scar, etc.It can effect any part of the body including the area between the toes, behind the ears, and even in more private of areas around the bodies. Poisonous spider bites, fungi, car accidents, birth, cutting your thumb while cooking and even major surgeries have been causes of these infections. An old schoolmate of mine had to go through four different surgeries due to getting this infection after scrapping his knee on the school blacktop.

This infection spreads quickly, within hours. It may start with the wound being red and in a couple of hours the redness and swelling may spread and your skin might start to turn black which is a sign of tissue death. Within a day, the infection may spread to a point where you might have to lose the body part. Sometimes the infection starts below the skin so you do not even see signs of damage until it is too late. It can also infect all age groups, from fetsues still in the womb to the elderly.

The mortality rate is high, 75% of everybody who gets this will die. This is usually due to how quickly the infection spreads, sometimes it infects various places within the body at the same time and may grow back quickly.

Rabies virus under miscroscope
Rabies virus under miscroscope | Source


Rabies is terrifying. It attacks the central nervous system (the brain.) It starts through saliva of an infected animal, usually in the form of a bite. From there, there is no symptom as it goes through the incubation period (2-5 weeks for animals and anywhere from two weeks to seven years for humans). During the incubation period, a human or animal can get a series of a rabies shots called Postexposure Prophylaxis (also have been used for HIV patients with promising results). If they complete the shots without any symptoms the survival is 100%. If they start showing symptoms, the survival rate goes down to .01%. In fact of all the cases of people with rabies symptoms, only three people have ever survived.

So what are the symptoms: it is shocking-flu like symptoms. As the virus continues to attack the central-nervous system, there can be seizures, quivers, change of behavior, confusion, and aggression. That is followed by a fear of water to the point where they would lash out if water is anywhere near them. They also hypersalivate and hallucinate. Within days, they go into a coma and die.

The best way to prevent this, is to get your pets up to date on their rabies vaccination and tell your children/relatives, neighborhood kids that if they get bit by an animal they do not know to tell an adult right away and go to the hospital and start on the shots. Also, if somebody seems a animal acting irregular, immediately call animal control and do not go near the animal and try to keep any pets and people away from the animal.

An example would be a bat flying around during the day time, another one is a deer coming up to a person, or a dog biting at nothing.

sleeping sickness virus in bloodstream
sleeping sickness virus in bloodstream | Source

#3-African Trypanosimiasis

Also known as the sleeping sickness, this is a highly fatal disease that effects the central nervous system. It is curable however it is 100% fatal in untreated cases. This is a protozoan parasite disease transmitted from tsetse flies.

There are two types of this disease. The first is Trypanosoma brucei gambiense which is the most common one found in 24 countries in west and central Africa and accounts for 98% of all accounts of the sleeping sickness(CDC 2014). The incubation period can go from mere weeks to years without showing any symptom. When symptoms start showing up, usually it is already too late as the parasites invade the central nervous system. The second one is Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense found in thirteen countries in eastern and southern Africa and is very rare to get. (CDC 2014). The incubation period is a week to a few months and invades the central nervous system quickly.

The life-cycle of the parasite (it is always important when it comes to parasites to know the life-cycle and when it is worse)

The trypanosomes multiply into subcutaneous tissues, blood, and lymp. The second stage is when the parasite crosses the blood and brain barrier and infects the central nervous system.

Symptoms go with the life-cycle. So the first set of symptoms is where a person would have fevers, headaches, joint pains, and itching. The second set of symptoms include changing of behaviors, confusion, poor coordination, and disturbance of the sleep cycle.

parasite in brain
parasite in brain | Source

#2-Naegleria fowleri.

So we have the killer right here. Naegleria fowleri or the flesh eating amoeba is a parasite found in warm fresh water lakes and rivers. The parasite enters the body from the nose and goes from the nose to the brain where it starts eating away at the central nervous system causing in irrational behaviors, seizures, memory loss, coma, and death. Considered to have a 100% mortality rate, less than 300 people since the 1960s had been infected and of the 300, only three had survived. .

the purple dots are holes caused by prion disease in infected tissues of the brain
the purple dots are holes caused by prion disease in infected tissues of the brain | Source

#1-Prion Disease

With no form of treatment or even medicine to help offset symptoms, this is one of the deadliest diseases with a 100% fatality rate. A couple of years ago, one such prion disease made news when a person died due to eating tainted meat (mad cow disease). So like rabies and the sleeping sickness, it is not surprising that this also attacks the central nervous system.

So the question is what is a prion? A prion is an abnormal pathogenic agents that are able to induce abnormal folding of specific normal cellular proteins called prion proteins that are found in the brain (CDC 2014). So it attaches itself to proteins that are naturally in your brain and make them ‘sick’ which led to brain damage, coma, and death. This is done really rapidly and I will say this again, there is no cure or treatment that work against this. Once a person or animal gets this, death is the only option. It can also happen with genetics as well, so some people will develop prion diseases but most will get it from eating contaminated meat.

The incubation rate is years and anybody who has ever ate any type of meat, mostly bovine (cows), could be infected and there is no way to test it. Although this seems really scary, most of the time, it is really rare to get this illness just like rabies and the sleeping sickness. It is really not common and is usually because of not cooking meat successfully or has a family history of one of the prion diseases.

Some of the prion diseases:

  • Mad Cow (4 cases total-eating infected meat)
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (genetic:1 per 1 million under 60, over 60: 4.4 per 1 million)
  • Fatal Familial Insomnia(genetic protein PrP^c, found in 40 families with 100 infected or carriers)
  • Kuru (due to cannibalism and only effects New Guinea, incubation 10-13 years, 50 years max)

There are more but basically you get the hint. Kuru is also considered to be the laughing sickness because that is one of their main signs of the disease, they all have a different main symptom and then smaller symptoms that they all share so they all have something that stands apart. The genetic ones can be tested during genetic tests and anybody who is had somebody in their family die because of a prion disease, usually has to get tested for the possibility of transferring the disease to the children. They are trying to wean the genetic prion disease out by genetic testing and testing fetuses for signs of the disease.

In Conclusion

There are a lot more but these are the seven most fatal diseases due to the fact that the numbers of victims contracting the disease and the highest mortality rates of said victims themselves. As we are still advancing in medicine and preventative care, I would not be surprised if somebody they will make a cure for most of these disease minus the prion disease. For instance, rabies they have a cure if a person can get to the medicine before symptoms started. The cases where a person survived was due to quickly putting them in a coma and injecting a overload of different antibiotics into their system. So there is huge hope that the other diseases on this list will also have cures (minus like I said the prion disease).

I know this list looks scary but remember you have a greater chance of dying from the common virus than ever getting any of these diseases because most are rare.


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