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India declared free from Yaws and Neonatal tetanus

India is the first country included in  the WHO Neglected tropical diseases roadmap to be free of both yaws (endemic treponematoses) and neonatal tetanus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The Roadmap, published in 2011, is “a comprehensive plan of control, elimination and eradication targets for 17 NTDs to be reached between 2012-2020”

Yaws (endemic treponematoses) is a childhood infectious disease caused by Treponema pallidum subspecies pertenue causing chronic disfigurement as well as debilitation. The disease affects skin, bones and cartilage and is found primarily in those under the age of 15, predominantly in ages 6 to 10. It is passed person to person and found more often in rural communities with impaired access to healthcare. The disease is easily and affordably treatable with a single oral dose of azithromycin, an antibiotic.

Yaws was first targeted by the WHO for eradication in the 1950s. Since then 66 countries have eradicated it; twelve are still endemic (this story by the WHO was written before India became the 66th country). India is the first country to eradicate Yaws since the WHO-recommended treatment shifted from injectable to penicillin to a single tablet.

Neonatal tetanus is a form of tetanus occurring in newborn babies, the condition is typically due to non-sterile conditions present during the birth and due to the weak immune system of the child is commonly fatal. Tetanus is caused by the spores of the bacterium Clostridium tetani releasing a neurotoxin. This neurotoxin is produced during the growth of the bacteria in dead tissue, in the case of neonatal tetanus this may be the umbilicus following a non-sterile birth.

Government programmes such as Swachh Bharat (Clean India) may be a contributing factor to the eradication of neonatal tetanus, as it is an issue primarily caused by poor hygiene procedures.

The declaration of India being free from these diseases brought praise from the WHO and various other international healthcare bodies. Though India still has a number of other problems to address, this is no doubt good news and an indication that India may be making progress in terms of the health concerns of its citizens, thought The Hindu.

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