Infectious Diseases That Have Been Globally Eradicated

Mostly thanks to vaccination, smallpox has been globally eradicated today.
Mostly thanks to vaccination, smallpox has been globally eradicated today.

Infectious diseases are the most feared diseases in the world. They have the potential to wipe out the entire human race if not controlled in time. In today’s world, globalization has brought the world closer and people are traveling more than ever. The spread of any infectious disease has the potential to be spread faster than ever before, increasing the chances of a deadly pandemic in this century. As a result of this reality, health organizations and governments worldwide are constantly striving to develop new treatments, vaccines, and other methods to stop epidemics. Programs to eliminate infectious diseases completely are also running. Some success has been achieved in this regard. Here are some examples of the success stories.

Completely Eradicated Diseases (Globally)


The first disease that was eradicated from the world through deliberate intervention was smallpox. For years, the disease ravaged the world killing millions infected with the smallpox virus. There were two clinical varieties of the disease, the variola major, and the variola minor. The former had a mortality rate of 40% but the latter was less severe. The last patient of variola major was diagnosed in Bangladesh in 1975. The last diagnosis of variola minor happened in Somalia in 1977. Smallpox was the first disease for which an effective vaccine was invented. Edward Jenner is credited with this invention. Mass vaccination programs were carried out in all parts of the world to eradicate the disease completely. However, high-security laboratories in certain countries continue to store the deadly smallpox virus. There is great controversy surrounding this storage. An accidental release could trigger a deadly epidemic as current generations are not vaccinated against this virus.


The second disease that has been successfully eradicated globally is the rinderpest disease. It was a viral disease that infected cattle and other ruminants. The vaccination of the animals using a live attenuated vaccine helped eliminate the disease from animal populations. The FAO of the UN played the major role in eliminating the disease. On October 14, 2010, nine years after the first diagnosis was made, the FAO announced that the disease had been completely eradicated.

Diseases On The Verge Of Being Eradicated (Globally)

Poliomyelitis (Polio)

Polio is a debilitating disease caused by the poliovirus. The disease has been eliminated from several parts of the world including the Americas, Southeast Asia and India, Europe, the Western Pacific region, and the Indo-West Pacific. In 1960, the first country to eradicate polio was Czechoslovakia. The development of the vaccine against the viral disease in the 1950’s helped in controlling the disease to a great extent. Several international organizations like the WHO, the UNICEF, CDC, Rotary International, and others launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988 with the aim of eradicating polio by 2000. Although cases of polio are still diagnosed in some parts of the world, the lowest annual prevalence of wild polio was seen in 2017. Only 22 cases were reported this year.


Also known as the Guinea worm disease, dracunculiasis, is a disease caused by a parasite that is spread by drinking contaminated water. The disease is very disabling and painful. Like in the case of polio, several organizations have joined hands to eradicate the disease from the world. The Carter Center plays the leading role in this initiative along with the WHO, UNICEF, CDC, and others. Since no vaccines are available against this worm, success is largely dependent on ensuring clean drinking water supplies. Today, the global annual incidence of the disease has been reduced to 30 cases in 2017 down from 3.5 million in 1986. 180 countries are today free of dracunculiasis. Three African countries, Ethiopia, Chad, and South Sudan still continue to suffer from it.


Another infectious disease called yaws is on the verge of being eradicated from the world. It is caused by a bacterium, Treponema pallidum pertenue. Although fatality rate is low, yaws is a highly disfiguring disease. A program called the TCP program was launched on a global scale to eliminate the disease and significant progress was made in this regard. The number of cases of yaws decreased from 50 million in 1952 to 2.5 million in 1964. However, after the program was stopped, the disease continued to remain at a low prevalence in different parts of the world. WHO believes it will be possible to completely eradicate the disease if proper measures are adopted by 2020.


Another deadly disease, malaria, has largely been brought under control in many parts of the world. It is caused by the malarial parasite with the mosquito acting as the vector of the disease. Malaria is spread through bites from infected female Anopheles mosquitos. The disease has been eradicated from most parts of the continents of the world. As per WHO, 28 countries have successfully eliminated the disease. Nine countries are in the elimination stage. The eradication of malaria from many parts of the world has been possible due to large-scale programs launched by the various international organizations. The Global Malaria Eradication Program was launched by WHO in 1955 but due to a lack of sufficient support, it had to end in 1969. However, in the present century, support for malaria eradication has poured in from all parts of the globe. The global rate of mortality from malaria fell by 60% between 2000 and 2015. According to Bill Gates, the disease can be eliminated by 2040.


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