Our morbidity and mortality rates have significantly improved, due to evolution and breakthroughs in the field of medicine. Also, global life expectancy has increased by 119%, with 32 years in the early 1800s to 70 years in 2012.

This major improvement in human health has been a dedicated work of many health professionals around the world.
Here we look at a few diseases which are on the brink of elimination.


The oldest victim who had been infected with smallpox is Pharaoh Ramses V.

In 1980, World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that smallpox had been successfully eradicated. This success was not only due to the rigorous efforts of many healthcare professionals and volunteers – also, it was due to the nature of the disease itself.

The disease causes a highly visible rash on the victim and the incubation period of smallpox is fairly short. Due to these reasons, a quick detection and response can be managed. So far, this is the only disease that we managed to vaccinate out of existence.


80% of the world’s children were immunised against this disease. In a severe case, polio can cause permanent paralysis in the victim; and five to ten out of 100 of those paralysed die when the virus reaches their respiratory and pulmonary system.

Over the years, polio was successfully reduced from 350,000 cases in 1988 to 37 cases in 2016. This huge success of 99% reduction of this highly infectious disease was thanks to our vaccination programme worldwide.

As of today, three countries that continue to suffer from polio are Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.


The first attempt to eradicate malaria globally was 1955 by WHO, through The Global Malaria Eradication programme. However, the programme was abandoned in 1970 – due to its lack of effectiveness.

Over time, many approaches were developed. This helped to drop the numbers to 438,000 mortalities in 2015 from 839,700 deaths in 2000.

The fight against malaria has been very challenging due to two main reasons, which are the emergence of insecticide-resistant mosquitoes and a medication resistance by the virus. As of 2015, this had cost 2.9 billion dollars globally.

Whooping cough

The name whooping cough derives from the sound “whooping” during a cough which has been one of its major symptoms. It was estimated that more than 1.3 million of whooping cough-related deaths around the globe may occur without vaccination.

Whooping cough or pertussis is considered the most common childhood disease worldwide before the introduction of the vaccine. The main aim of the vaccination was to reduce the risk of severe pertussis in the victim.


In 2014, WHO announced a new strategy to eliminate the tuberculosis epidemic by 2035. The goal is to have zero TB-related mortalities.

Between 2000 and 2015, an estimated 49 million lives were saved due to effective diagnosis and treatment. To quote Dr. Margaret Chan, former WHO Director-General, "The momentum to end TB is already building at the highest political level".


Before 1960, where the vaccine for mumps was not widely distributed, cases of this disease ranged from 100 to 1000 out of 100,000 population, with epidemic intervals every two to five years. Nowadays, the outbreak is rare, but may however happen occasionally.

The mumps vaccine is often integrated into a combined measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. As of now, mumps is not the highest priority of WHO, as a higher burden of the disease is observed in measles and rubella.


Rubella is a self-limiting disease aside from congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) which may cause fetal defects in up to 90% of cases and may result in stillbirth in infected pregnant women.

In February 2014, rubella was declared eradicated from the region of America which include Canada, Cuba, US, Central and South America. However, there are about 120,000 children worldwide that are born with congenital rubella defects despite efforts against it. CRS is also a leading cause of preventable congenital defects.


Measles is a highly contagious disease. Before there was a vaccination, it affected 90% of children before they reached the age of 15.

In 2015 alone, about 367 deaths occurred in a day due to this infectious disease. Despite the number, cases of measles dropped by 75% since 2000 and measles have been eradicated in most countries.

WHO has also released The Global Vaccine Action Plan, which targets measles and rubella eradication by 2020 in at least five WHO regions.


Guinea worm disease or dracunculiasis is not lethal. In 1986, there were more than 3.5 million cases reported, and after huge efforts were taken, the number has dropped to around 126 cases recently. As of now, the disease is endemic only in four countries in the Africa region.


Although most of these diseases are controlled, the occurrence of an outbreak may complicate current efforts. Not to mention, a rising concern for the emergence of vaccine-resistant bacteria or viruses. Thus, proper surveillance is a priority for a quick counter response. MIMS

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