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Eradication of infectious diseases

Eradication is the reduction of an infectious disease's prevalence in the a human population to zero. A number of world organizations together with local governments are working to fully eradicate various diseases.




Smallpox became one of the first diseases for which there was an effective vaccination when Edward Jenner demonstrated in 1798 that inoculation of humans with cowpox could protect against smallpox.[1]

The virus causing smallpox, Variola vera, has two variants: variola major, with a mortality rate around 30%, and variola minor, with a mortality rate less than 1%. The last naturally occurring case of variola major was diagnosed in October 1975 in Bangladesh, and the last naturally occurring case of variola minor was diagnosed in October 1977 in Somalia. The global eradication of smallpox was certified by a commission of scientists on December 9, 1979 and endorsed by the World Health Assembly on May 8, 1980.[1]

Global eradication underway

Poliomyelitis (polio)

A dramatic reduction of the incidence of poliomyelitis in industrialized countries followed the development of a vaccine in the 1950s. In 1960, Czechoslovakia became the first country certified to have eradicated polio.

In 1988, the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) passed the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Its goal was to eradicate polio by the year 2000. The updated strategic plan for 2004–2008 expects to achieve global eradication by interrupting poliovirus transmission, using the strategies of routine immunization, supplementary immunization campaigns, and surveillance of possible outbreaks. The WHO estimates that global savings from eradication, due to forgone treatment and disability costs, could exceed one billion U.S. dollars.[2]

The following world regions have been declared polio-free:

  • The Americas (1994)
  • Indo-West Pacific region (1997)
  • Europe (1998)
  • Western Pacific region, including China (2000)

Poliomyelitis is endemic today only to Nigeria, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan[3], with fewer than 2000 cases reported globally each year from 2000-2006.


Dracunculiasis, also called Guinea Worm Disease, is a painful and disabling parasitic disease caused by a worm, Dracunculus medinensis. It is spread through consumption of drinking water infested with copepods hosting Dracunculus eggs. The Carter Center has led the effort to eradicate the disease, along with the CDC, the WHO, UNICEF, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Unlike diseases such as smallpox and polio, there is no vaccine nor drug therapy for dracunculiasis. Eradication efforts have been based on making drinking water supplies safer and through educating people where it is endemic on safe drinking water practices. These strategies have proved successful: two decades of eradication efforts have reduced its global incidence to 25,217 cases in 2006, down from an estimated 3.5 million in 1986. The WHO has certified 180 countries free of the disease, and it is endemic today in only nine countries.[4]

Global eradication proposed

Measles, mumps and rubella

In the 1990s, the governments of the Americas, along with the Pan American Health Organization, launched a plan to eradicate the three MMR vaccine diseases - measles, mumps, and rubella - from the region. Worldwide eradication of these diseases has also been proposed.[citations needed]

See also


  1. ^ a b Smallpox (HTML). WHO (2000). Retrieved on 2007-11-30.
  2. ^ World Health Organization (2003). Global polio eradication initiative : strategic plan 2004-2008. Geneva: WHO. ISBN 924159117X. Retrieved on 2007-11-30. 
  3. ^ (2006) "Update on vaccine-derived polioviruses". MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 55 (40): 1093–7. PMID 17035927. Retrieved on 2007-11-30.
  4. ^ Berry, Michele (June 21 2007). "The Tail End of Guinea Worm — Global Eradication without a Drug or a Vaccine". The New England Journal of Medicine 356 (25): 2561-2564. Retrieved on 2007-11-30.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Eradication_of_infectious_diseases". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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