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Global Health |

WHO Declares India Free of Yaws and Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus FREE

M.J. Friedrich
JAMA. 2016;316(11):1141. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.12649.
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India was recognized by the World Health Organization in July with official certificates of elimination for 2 neglected tropical diseases—yaws and maternal and neonatal tetanus http://bit.ly/29VXMeD. These achievements, which were carried out through the existing health system and health workforce in India, illustrate the nation’s commitment to their elimination and serve as an example to other countries.

India is the first country endemic for yaws to eradicate it, a goal the country achieved by years of using targeted awareness and early-treatment campaigns. This May, the WHO certified India yaws-free after an International Verification Team confirmed interruption of transmission of the disease late last year. A chronic disfiguring skin condition caused by the bacterium, Treponema pallidum subspecies pertenue, yaws affects mostly poor children living in unhygienic conditions in warm, humid areas of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific. Transmission of the bacterium occurs through person-to-person skin contact and produces multiple lesions that eat away the flesh, sometimes to the bone.

India was declared free of maternal and neonatal tetanus in August 2015. Only a few decades ago 150 000 to 200 000 cases of neonatal tetanus were reported annually. Neonatal tetanus, which occurs most frequently in developing countries, usually occurs through infection of the unhealed umbilical stump. Rather than employ massive tetanus vaccination campaigns, the government of India relied on a mix of strategies, including education and early treatment of vulnerable populations, to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus.

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