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Divining without SeedsThe Case for Strengthening Laboratory Medicine in Africa$
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Iruka N. Okeke

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449413

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449413.001.0001

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The Power of Sight

The Power of Sight

(p.9) 1 The Power of Sight
Divining without Seeds

Iruka N. Okeke

Cornell University Press

This chapter presents a brief overview of how scientists came to attribute diseases to specific pathogens and how this knowledge has revolutionized the control and treatment of infectious diseases. It discusses how Western-trained physicians practicing in sub-Saharan Africa offer treatment based on diagnoses made with insufficient evidence. The worst form of this practice is prescribing specific treatments for infectious diseases that have nonspecific clinical signs through signs and symptoms alone. This method is problematic because the treatments offered by Western practitioners are effective only when diagnosis is precise. In equatorial Africa the majority of patients with fever are presumed to have malaria and treated accordingly. While this rapid and cheap diagnostic protocol is helpful to the majority who do have malaria fever, it is life threatening to the significant, and growing, minority who do not.

Keywords:   infectious disease, pathogens, treatment, Western medicine, Africa, diagnosis, malaria

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