With all that advancement in medicine and science, you would think the human race would have battled and won against more than one or two big diseases. Well, not really.
Saturday, 9 December, marks 38 years to when we finally managed to completely eradicate a deadly virus that had killed millions of people - the smallpox.
The other disease that we’ve managed to oust/ eradicate was something that affected livestock. Rinderpest or cattle plague got that distinction in 2010.
So what’s our ratio? Humans: 2, diseases: millions.
If there’s some positive news at all, it’s that while we’ve eradicated only two diseases, we’ve managed to eliminate many in India. Eradication means global good riddance to the disease. Eliminate is more region specific.
There have been only two successful global campaigns in which a disease has been eradicated. Smallpox, eradicated in 1980, happens to be the first of these. The last natural case of smallpox, according to WHO, was in 1977 in Somalia. The only known case since then was a year later in England’s Birmingham, after a laboratory accident. One person was killed in the incident and the virus was contained.
It took decades of effort before the World Health Assembly declared smallpox eradicated. The disease killed 35 percent of its victims, while leaving others blind or scarred.
The second disease to be eradicated is rinderpest. It did not affect humans, but cattle and other members of the ruminant family. It was in October 2010 that the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation announced rinderpest’s eradication after nine years of no diagnoses. It’s the only disease of livestock that has been eradicated by human effort.
While the WHO continues with its efforts to eradicate the disease, it has been eliminated in India. The South-East Asia Region was certified polio-free in March 2014, also marking polio-free existence for 80 percent of the global population.
The last polio case in India was recorded in West Bengal in 2011. In Delhi, the last case was reported in 2009. Currently, only Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria (in the entire world) have wild polio virus in active circulation.
Yaws is a kind of chronic bacterial infection which mostly affects tribal population that inhabits remote, hilly and forest areas. It targets skin, bones and joints and was eliminated from India in September 2006.
In July 2016, India received official citation from WHO and UNICEF for being free of the disease. This milestone was reached before the WHO global target of eradicating the disease by 2020.
Maternal And Neonatal Tetanus
Along with official citation for Yaws, India was felicitated by the global health organisations for Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus (MNT) as well in July 2016. In case of deliveries in unhygienic circumstances, mothers and babies are often left vulnerable to MNT which severely affects mortality rates. Tetanus killed as many as 160,000 young children in India in 1988, according to UNICEF.
However, the disease, which can be prevented by hygienic practices, has been eliminated in India. Its elimination was officially announced in August 2015.
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