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Deadly Diseases That Have Been (Almost) Eradicated

With all the creatures that exist on Earth, it is hard to keep track of all the possible diseases that exist. As time goes on, more and more nations are focused on joint efforts to eradicate deadly illnesses from the face of the Earth.

As research and technology develop, the human race has been able to cure people of many illnesses. Here are a few illnesses that have either been completely eradicated or are on their way to being eradicated:

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1. Smallpox

“An acute, highly contagious, febrile disease, characterized by a pustular eruption that often leaves permanent pits or scars.

This is the only disease to have been eradicated thanks to scientists actively seeking to do so. The first effective vaccine for the deadly disease was created sometime in 1798. It was a physician and scientist Edward Jenner who showed the effectiveness of vaccination using cowpox lesions.

There are two types of smallpox: variola major (40% mortality rate) and variola minor (less than 1% mortality rate). The last known case for variola major was found in Bangladesh in 1975. Variola minor’s last known cased was diagnosed on Ali Maow Malin of Somalia on October 26, 1977.

2. Rinderpest

“An acute, usually fatal infectious disease of cattle, sheep, etc., caused by a paramyxovirus of the genus Morbillivirus and characterized by high fever, diarrhea, and lesions of the skin and mucous membranes.”

This viral disease actually belongs to the same family that the Measles virus does. In populations where there was a lack of education in curative medicines, mortality rates skated dangerous close to 100%.

The campaign to eradicate the disease began in the mid-1900s and successfully saw its last confirmed case in 2001. A division of the United Nations, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) declared the disease officially eradicated in June 2011.

3. Polio (underway)

“An acute viral disease, usually affecting children and young adults, caused by any of three polioviruses, characterized by inflammation of the motor neurons of the brain stem and spinal cord, and resulting in a motor paralysis, followed by muscular atrophy and often permanent deformities.”

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First observed by physician Michael Underwood in 1789, the virus that caused it was identified by Australian researcher Karl Landsteiner in the early 1900s.

Three organizations, the WHO, UNICEF, and Rotary Foundation began a joint campaign in 1988 to eradicate the disease worldwide. The Americas were declared free of it in 1994, with Indo-West Pacific region in 1997, Europe in 1998, Western Pacific and China in 2000, and Southeast Asia in 2014.

Poliovirus type 2 has been worldwide eradication status, with polio type 3’s last case seen in 2012. The only pockets of polio type 1 were found in August 2016 in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

4. Dracunculiasis (underway)

“Also called Guinea-worm disease (GWD), it is a parasitic infection caused by the nematode Dracunculus medinensis… symptoms include vomiting and dizziness.”

This particularly nasty creature is contracted when someone ingests contaminated water, containing the larvae of the guinea worm. Efforts to eradicate the disease are being led by The Carter Center with help from many other organizations.

At the moment, there is no medical-based way to cure the disease. Rarely resulting in death, educating the populous on safe drinking practice where GWD is common has been found most effective at preventing the spread of the disease.

The last cases of the disease were reported in Ethiopia and Chad, with only a 1% infection rate. The fact that it can infect cats and dogs making full eradication difficult.

5. Yaws (underway)

“An infection, nonvenereal tropical disease, primarily of children, characterized by raspberrylike eruptions of the skin and caused by a spirochete, Treponema pertenue, which is closely related to the agent of syphilis.”

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Thanks to the TCP program, which ran between 1952 and 1964, infections rates dropped from 50 million to 2.5 million. First treated with penicillin, azithromycin replaced in beginning in 2013 when it was found more effective. Tested first on Lihir Island, the frequency of disease dropped nearly 3% from 2.4%, motivating researchers in 2013 to prepare a large-scale treatment for Cameroon, Ghana, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu.

It is exciting to see that so many diseases may be eradicated in our lifetime. Hopefully, with more time other diseases like cancer and HIV/AIDS can be cured the same way.

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