Deadly Diseases You Thought Were Extinct, but Still Kill People Every Day

Some deadly diseases you thought were long gone are still very much alive — and highly contagious. Despite medical advances like vaccines, better sanitation, and antibiotics, many dangerous health conditions still affect many parts of the world. The prevalence of diseases vaccines have almost eradicated are on the rise again. Antibiotic resistance makes widespread bacterial infections a major possibility.

Scarlet fever

You'll think twice about hopping into the hot tub after you read about folliculitis.

You’ll get a nasty rash if you come down with scarlet fever. |

Scarlet fever is a side effect of step throat in some people. It produces a bright red rash all over the body along with a fever and sore throat. If left untreated, this condition can cause damage to your heart, lungs, kidneys, and nervous system.

Next: The HIV/AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s caused an increase in the number of these types of infections.

Tuberculosis (TB)

3D illustration of Lungs

TB goes after your lungs. |

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection that affects the lungs. According to Mayo Clinic, it’s still prevalent, even in developed countries. In the U.S., many strains of the bacteria that cause TB have become resistant to the antibiotics once used to treat the disease. People with TB have to take multiple medications for a long time to get rid of the infection without relying on antibiotics.

Next: You’re not nearly as safe from this disease as you once thought.

The plague

Scientist analyzing dish with virus and bacteria cells

This disease is still a threat today. |

Though it may seem like a disease bound to history books, the plague — sometimes still called the black death — still affects hundreds of people around the world today. The CDC says your symptoms, if you had this disease, would depend on the type. They include everything from fever and chills to skin and tissue death. Without treatment, the plague is usually fatal.

Next: This disease causes swelling in and around the brain.


woman massaging her painful neck

Swollen cheeks are a sign you have contracted the mumps. |

Swollen cheeks and a swollen jaw are the most characteristic signs of mumps, a highly contagious viral infection easily spread from person to person. Close contact is enough for one person to pass the infection on to the next. According to the CDC, mumps can lead to inflammation of the brain and the membranes surrounding the brain.

Next: We’re close to eradicating this disease, but the virus is still out there.


portrait of a group of children running on the beach

Children are common victims of polio. | Stockbyte/Getty Images

We’ve almost said our final goodbyes to polio — but not yet. There were 37 total reported cases worldwide in 2016. Unfortunately, as long as there’s still one case, many children are still at risk. A small percentage of people with this condition die when paralysis affects the muscles involved in breathing. Children under the age of five suffer the most.

Next: You’ve probably heard of this disease — but had no idea people still suffer from it today.


kidney cross section

This ancient disease has stood the test of time. |

This is an ancient infectious disease that’s still prevalent today. According to WebMD, about 100 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with leprosy every year. Over 100,000 people live with it worldwide. It causes skin sores and nerve damage on multiple parts of the body. Untreated, leprosy can lead to disfigurment, kidney failure, and permanent nerve damage.

Next: There were 600 new cases of this disease in the U.S. several years ago.


woman coughing

Measles symptoms can easily be overlooked in the beginning stages. |

If you’re experiencing a fever, cough, and pink eye, with accompanying white spots inside your mouth, you might have measles, says MedlinePlus. It’s a preventable viral infection that vaccines have been close to completely eradicating in the past. There were over 600 new reported cases of measles in the United States in 2015.

Next: This condition can be fatal, and is preventable.


Sick woman cough in bed under blanket

This disease can cause real damage to some of your vital organs. |

Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that affects the nose and throat. Symptoms include fever, chills, a cough, and swollen glands in the neck. Left untreated, the infection can cause severe damage to your kidneys, nervous system, and heart. Healthline says about 3 percent of diphtheria cases are fatal. Vaccines can help prevent diphtheria.

Next: Those without the vaccine could get this disease.

Whooping cough (pertussis)

Vaccine in vial

A vaccine can help prevent pertussis. |

According to Medical News Today, whooping cough develops as a result of a bacterial infection. It causes a sore throat, watery eyes, and eventually, a severe cough. In the most severe cases, the condition can lead to dehydration, seizures, low blood pressure, and kidney failure. You’re 23 times more likely to develop whooping cough without a vaccine.

Next: Lack of immunization for this condition puts many children in danger each year.


Happy children running in house

Children and young adults are most susceptible to rubella. | Monkeybusinessimages

The World Health Organization says children and young adults are most susceptible to rubella, a highly contagious viral infection. It causes a rash and fever, but if passed on from a mother without immunity to her child, can result in heart defects and other life-threatening conditions. Rubella vaccines provide 95 percent long-lasting immunity, and adverse effects are usually extremely mild.

Next: In 1918, a pandemic swept across the wold. It could happen again.

Influenza of pandemic proportions

young man sick with the flue

The flu can still cause a pandemic. |

The 1918 influenza pandemic is still somewhat a mystery — at least in terms of how it spread to so many people so quickly. According to Healthline, the flu can still behave this way, despite vaccines and improved public health knowledge. Children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions are at higher risk of death due to the influenza virus.

Next: Severe nutritional deficiencies can lead to life-altering conditions, especially in children.


medical team suiting up prior to surgery

Surgery and medication can help correct many of this diseases symptoms. |

Rickets is a disease that affects the bones, usually due to a vitamin D deficiency. Medications, surgery, or other treatment methods can correct many of its symptoms. Many of its symptoms, such as an abnormally curved spine. In some severe cases, the disease can cause seizures.

Next: You can die of this disease within hours of realizing you have it.


Closeup photo of woman sitting on toilet and using toilet paper

Cholera can come with some very intense complications. | Artfoliophoto/iStock/Getty Images

The World Health Organization says cholera can become fatal within hours of initial symptoms if it isn’t treated properly as soon as possible. The disease causes persistent and severe diarrhea, which can lead to life-threatening dehydration and other dangerous complications. It’s often a result of poor sanitation and a lack of clean water.

Next: This disease may not show any symptoms, but can have damaging consequences.

Lymphatic filariasis

Doctor and patient

It can take years to figure out you have this infection. |

This is a parasitic infection that damages the body’s lymph system. Many people don’t know they have it, and symptoms, if any, may not show up for years after the initial infection. According to the CDC, people with lymphatic filariasis are more likely to suffer from many other types of infections, some life-threatening.

Next: Exposure to this bacteria can be life-threatening.


Two bears fighting

Wild animals are prone to anthrax poisoning. |

Though it isn’t contagious, anthrax — a bacterial infection that can spread throughout the body — can cause serious illness, says the CDC. It’s still found in soil, and often affects wild animals. Experts consider it most dangerous if you unintentionally inhale it.

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