Top 5 Diseases that Are Now Nearly Eradicated
For many years, life expectancy of humans was around 40 to 50 years old. Once modern medicine advanced, these numbers changed drastically. Thanks to vaccinations and better medical understanding of diseases, people all over the world can rest a little easier knowing some life-threatening diseases are now nearly eradicated.


Smallpox has been responsible for an estimated 300 million to 500 million deaths in the 20th century alone. This horrifying disease was characterized by small, painful bumps which appeared all over a patient’s body. Smallpox was particularly scary because it affected people of all ages. When scientist Edward Jenner noticed that individuals who had been exposed to cowpox were seemingly immune to this disease, an idea struck. Since the invention of the small pox vaccine in 1796, the world has seen a rapid decrease in the number of cases. In fact, smallpox is the only disease that is considered to be 100 percent eradicated throughout the entire world.


At its prime, polio was known to be one of the most feared diseases in the world, mainly because it primarily affected young children. It sent hundreds of thousands of children to the hospital. When Dr. Jonas Salk invented a vaccine against it, the world rejoiced. Although this vaccine has not yet been spread throughout the world, with help from organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, polio is on its way out. Hopefully within the next few years, polio will have been eradicated throughout the entire world and parents will no longer have to fear for the lives of their children.

The Plague

The Black Death killed over 50 million people in Europe, accounting for about 60 percent of the population at the time. The disease was spread through infected rats and other small animals. Once infected, people were highly contagious. This disease was characterized by horrible blisters called “boobos” that would emerge and fester on an ill persons’ body. While doctors did not know how to prevent this disease at the time it has since disappeared from the world as sanitation and medical practices have become much more elaborate. While there may be one case every decade, it looks like the plague is gone for now and, hopefully, will never make another appearance.


Tetanus has long been considered a disease of filth, something one can catch by touching rusted metal or using an infected needle. It affects thousands of people each year and causes muscle spasms, lock-jaw and a whole host of other horrible symptoms. Nowadays, most developed nations such as the United States no longer have trouble with this disease, as children are regularly vaccinated against it. In developing nations doctors can administer emergency tetanus shots and have seen great success with this. It is imperative that doctors begin to vaccinate more patients in third world countries as these are the most at-risk individuals. Although this disease has not yet been eradicated, the number of cases has drastically dropped.


Rabies has long haunted the big screen throughout the world, with visions of Old Yeller foaming at the mouth sending audiences to tears everywhere, but this image is a reality for many individuals who live every day surrounded by stray animals. Rabies is a virus which is contractible by almost any mammal and is characterized by over excitation, confusion, paranoia, fear of water and the tell-tale foaming at the mouth. Rabies can be transferred through a bite from an infected animal and can have devastating effects once the virus takes root. Thankfully, vaccines have been developed to prevent the disease from taking hold. Whenever an individual is bitten by an animal, it is mandatory that they get a rabies shot; these regulations have allowed doctors to monitor and significantly reduce the amount of rabies related deaths in the United States. Many other nations such as India and parts of Africa are beginning to adapt these procedures and are currently making key decisions about the lives of their stray furry friends.

Thanks to the care and dedication of many scientists and researchers, we now live in a safer and happier world. Hopefully more innovation can lead us down a path of true health and happiness.

Sumita Tellakat

Sources: MNN, UNICEF

Photo: My NYC Doctor

The CIA has chosen to end vaccination programs after violent outbursts were directed at federal agents in Pakistan. American-led public health efforts in the Middle East have been met with widespread suspicion after the agency commissioned fake vaccination drives to help discern the whereabouts of bin Laden.

Although this tactic ultimately failed to assist the manhunt in any fashion, Pakistanis have publicly rebuked the CIA’s continued involvement with public health initiatives in the country. The doctor who collected DNA from this ruse operation was indicted and has been sentenced to 33 years in a Pakistan prison.

The controversy surrounding CIA vaccinations in Pakistan is compounded by the persistent prevalence of polio in the country. Sixty-six cases of the debilitating virus have been identified since the beginning of 2014. This marks a disconcerting increase from last year, when only six new cases were reported around this time.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has publicly welcomed the end of CIA vaccinations in Pakistan, insisting that all health initiatives are compromised when the U.S. engages in these types of missions.  WHO hopes greater transparency and legitimacy from Western NGOs will forge a lasting trust between local populations and foreign doctors.

“This reassurance is coming at the right time and we sincerely hope this will contribute toward reaching the children,” Zubair Mufti of WHO told BBC. “Public health programs should only be focused toward providing health to the people and not collateral things.”

Even the White House conceded the fake vaccination drives did more harm than good.

“While political and security agendas may by necessity induce collateral damage, we as a society set boundaries on these damages, and we believe this sham vaccination campaign exceeded those damages.”

Taliban leaders have also applauded this decision. The terrorist organization banned all associated community members, including women and children, from taking part in any vaccination program two years ago. World health leaders like Mufti are hopeful the prohibition will be lifted soon after this announcement, as he believes this would be a vital first step toward eradicating polio in the Middle East.

However, other substantial obstacles complicate the mission to achieve universal vaccination. Despite hundreds of studies disproving any correlation between vaccinations and reduced mental capacity, many citizens of developing and developed nations alike continue to believe these shots lead to mental deficiencies later in life. In addition, it may prove especially difficult to convince Middle Eastern communities of the legitimacy of current vaccination platforms after the CIA admitted to the botched program to track down bin Laden.

Yet, this decision appears to be an important first step toward eradicating the acute, debilitating virus that can result in paralysis.  Although the world is a ways away from achieving universal vaccination and eradicating polio altogether, Pakistan is certainly a great place to start.

– Sam Preston

Sources: BBC, FOX, NY Times
Photo: Humanosphere

In a region of the world that has such a large portion of the world’s population (25 percent), health issues in Southeast Asia can reflect many general health concerns. Recent disease scares like the Avian Flu, Swine Flu and the SARS outbreak all had origins and outbreaks in Southeast Asia. Thus, the recent declaration by the World Health Organization (WHO) that polio has been eliminated in the region can be considered a great victory in the fight against global poverty.

The declaration was the culmination of an intensive effort that involved 2.4 million volunteers in India, which had accounted for half the world’s polio cases in 2009. Despite that prevalence just a few years ago, the country has had no reported cases of polio since 2011.

The project cost a billion dollars, largely funded by the Indian government. Former U.S. ambassador John E. Lange said about the announcement, “This is… a proof of concept that polio can be eradicated in some of the most difficult places to work in.” Thanks to the encouragement of the WHO and the collaboration by the Indian government, Southeast Asia looks to have set a model for future regions to follow.

With the official polio-free announcement for Southeast Asia, it can be said that 80 percent of the world’s population lives in polio-free regions. The only two world regions that are still plagued by polio are the Eastern Mediterranean and Africa. Those regions will need time as there is significant resistance in those regions.

Pakistan in particular has been an area resistant to polio eradication. While it would seem that the elimination of polio is a movement that anyone could get behind, the movement has become closely associated to United States intelligence efforts in the region. The Taliban in Pakistan has acted out against polio workers and citizens helping the polio effort. Closely following the news of eradication in Southeast Asia were reports of the kidnapping and murder of a polio worker in Pakistan. With entrenched resistance groups there and in Nigeria, the further eradication of polio might prove difficult going forward.

Also, the Syrian civil war will keep health worries going in that region. Syria had one of the best health care systems in the region prior to the crisis, but the massive displacement of the Syrian population helps spread these dangerous diseases. A spokesman from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees said, “The current polio outbreak in Syria… is arguably the most challenging outbreak in the history of polio eradication.”

Despite the difficulties in the remaining areas, the eradication of polio in Southeast Asia proves that no matter the circumstances in the present, a dedicated effort can make real progress. The work that the Indian government and WHO have done in the last five years could prove to be successful in other regions. Organizations like The Borgen Project encourage this type of work to continue, and for the United States to step up their support in regions that are dealing with these difficulties.

-Eric Gustafsson

Sources: LA Times, NPR, WHO, The Guardian
Photo: NPR

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With more than 34,000 clubs and 1.2 million members in over 200 countries, Rotary International is one of the largest service organizations in the world. Rotary International assembles business and professional leaders to build peace and goodwill. Members of local Rotary clubs, called Rotarians, engage in service both at home and abroad to alleviate poverty and promote health and education.

Having the primary motto of “Service above Self,” Rotary has been successful in transmitting its humanitarian fervor to young people. Rotary’s service club for young people ages 12 to 18, called Interact, is one of the fastest growing philanthropic programs in the world. It currently has over 300,000 teens involved. Similarly, Rotaract is the subset of Rotary International that caters to college-age people ages 18 to 30. Rotaract clubs boast a membership of over 200,000.

An important facet of Rotary, Interact, and Rotaract clubs is that despite being affiliated with Rotary International, the individual chartered clubs are self-governing – free to engage in service projects in their own communities as well as serve international initiatives. This leads to clubs becoming strong grassroots vehicles for the promotion of service.

There have been many noteworthy Rotarians throughout history, ranging from politicians like former president Warren G. Harding to accomplished entrepreneurs like Sam Walton, founder of Walmart.

One of Rotary’s flagship missions has been to eradicate polio, a goal this organization has been working on for over 25 years. The Gates Foundation has helped, providing Rotary with hundreds of millions of dollars over many years to assist in the eradication of polio. Most recently, in 2013, Rotary International and the Gates Foundation began a joint effort called “End Polio Now – Make History Today,” determined to prevent polio from making a resurgence. This endeavor has been successful, with the annual polio diagnosis rate being reduced by over 99%.

In addition to fighting polio, the Rotary Foundation has been instrumental in effecting change in world communities by establishing many innovative initiatives designed to create a healthier and more educated world. For example, Rotary clubs worldwide have taken a firm stance aimed at promoting literacy by creating a Rotary Literacy Month, establishing book donation drives, and holding reading events for schoolchildren.

Rotary has also worked with U.S. federal agencies such as USAID, thus creating a great partnership between an organization with strong grassroots ties and an agency with technical expertise. For example, in 2009, USAID and Rotary joined efforts to bring clean drinking water and sanitation to countries in the developing world.

Rotary International is an organization that seeks to transcend cultural, ethnic, and language boundaries in order to serve humanity, and it is impossible to overstate the impact this organization has had on the world.

– Rahul Shah