Reprinted with permission from Foundation Blog, The official blog of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
By: Dr. Tadataka Tachi Yamada
When I was growing up in Japan, my close friend Keichi Maruyama, who lived right next door to me, was crippled from polio.
Most people today are too young to remember, but it was a disease that struck fear into every family. We knew it could hit home at any time.
Dr. Tadataka Tachi Yamada watches as a boy receives a polio vaccination at Bhairon Mandir Temple. Tachi was there to understand the importance of transit and migratory populations in contributing to polio transmission. New Delhi, India. April 5, 2009. Photo courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation / Prashant Panjiar.
Polio is no longer a threat in most of the world, thanks to a polio vaccine and an enormous global commitment. We are now locked in a mortal battle to completely eradicate the disease and have reduced the fight to just four countries – Nigeria, India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
This week I attended a symposium to commemorate the 30th anniversary of smallpox eradication. Thanks to the development and delivery of a vaccine, we achieved one of the greatest global health victories of all time. Vaccines are the most important and cost-effective intervention available to prevent illnesses and death.
I believe the fundamental lessons from smallpox can be applied to many diseases, especially the fight against polio. We need political will, sufficient human and financial resources, and ongoing scientific innovation
Of course there will be challenges along the way. I think the biggest lesson from the smallpox success is that we must approach each new challenge with the spirit of continuous learning and be flexible enough to adjust along the way. We must do the same until the world is polio-free, so that our children’s children will never have to say: “You came this close and gave up.”
Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the foundation’s Global Health Program, leads the foundation’s efforts to help develop and deliver low-cost, life-saving health tools for the developing world. He oversees Global Health’s grantmaking, which focuses on four major activities: discovery, development, delivery, and advocacy.
August 26th, 2010
By: Alanna Shaikh
It was recently pointed out to me that I’ve never covered leishmaniasis in my posts. I’d hate to make an NTD extra-neglected, so I’ll look at it today. As a quick refresher, you may recall that I named it “giant sores and organ damage disease” in my very first post on this blog. It’s also known as kala-azar.
For a somewhat more formal description of leishmaniasis, we can turn to the World Health Organization (WHO). They’re just issued an information page on the disease. (Which, by the way, is good news. It will help raise the profile of this NTD and all the others as well.) The WHO would like you to know that:
Leishmaniasis is caused by protozoan parasites belonging to the genus Leishmania. The parasites are transmitted by the bite of a tiny – only 2–3 mm long – insect vector, the phlebotomine sandfly.
Photo Credit: CDC
Read more: Let’s Talk Leishmaniasis
August 26th, 2010
Reprinted with permission from Foundation Blog, The Official Blog of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
By: Walt Orenstein
I will never forget March 16, 1975. It had been almost four months since I began working in India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh (UP), to try to eradicate smallpox.
On that morning, I was contacted about a new case of smallpox. I reached the patient about 1 ½ hours after she died from an unusual complication, late hemorrhagic smallpox. Her name was Shanti, a 7 month old child, the daughter of Pyari Lal. She was probably infected by her sibling. Her death was totally preventable, but fortunately she turned out to be the last case of smallpox in UP.
We finally broke the human chains of transmission of that terrible virus. That experience in India taught me how serious vaccine preventable diseases could be and how powerful vaccines are in preventing these types of tragedies.
Walter A. Orenstein, M.D doing community outreach in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, India during the successful 1975 smallpox eradication campaign. Photo Credit: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The eradication of smallpox showed that effective vaccines can lead to the ultimate goal: the permanent end of a serious affliction of humankind. Smallpox eradication is our generation’s gift to all future generations. Read more: Lessons Learned from Smallpox When Eradication is the Goal, One Case is One Too Many