Neglected tropical diseases

WHO to investigate yaws in the Philippines decades after last recorded cases

Expert consultation notes progress in six countries where yaws is known to occur

27 March 2014 | Geneva --The World Health Organization (WHO) will assist the Ministry of Health of the Philippines to investigate suspected cases of yaws that have recently been reported.

“Until now, the Philippines was considered to have eliminated the disease after the large-scale treatment of affected communities in the 1950s and 1960s,” ... “Currently, there are three known endemic countries in the Western Pacific Region: Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.”

Dr Lasse Vestergaard, Medical Officer in WHO’s Western Pacific Regional Office

38 participants attended a two-day expert consultation from 24 to 25 March 2014 at WHO headquarters in Geneva to review progress achieved in implementing the WHO Morges Strategy developed in 2012 to eradicate yaws.

“There were encouraging reports presented by countries that clearly show that yaws eradication is achievable by 2020,” said Dr Kingsley Asiedu, the Medical Officer in charge of yaws eradication at WHO headquarters. “What we urgently need to move forward is adequate funding and free access to oral azithromycin.”

In 2012, the WHO roadmap on neglected tropical diseases targeted yaws for eradication by 2020.

Between 1952 and 1964, WHO and UNICEF provided assistance to 46 countries with the aim of eradicating endemic treponematoses including yaws. Mass treatment campaigns in these countries detected more than 300 million cases and treated 50 million people.

By 1964, the prevalence of these diseases had decreased by 95% (to 2.5 million). However, this remarkable public health achievement was not sustained until the end goal of eradication.