On 14th July, 2016 the World Health Organization (WHO) certified India as the first country to eradicate Yaws under the 2012 Neglected Tropical Diseases roadmap to eradicate Yaws.
Yaws forms part of a group of chronic bacterial infections commonly known as the endemic treponematoses.
These diseases are caused by spiral bacteria of the genus Treponema, which also includes endemic syphilis (bejel) and pinta. Yaws is the most common of these infections.
The disease is found primarily in poor communities in warm, humid and tropical forest areas of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific.
The majority of affected populations live at the “end of the road” and therefore have limited access to basic social amenities and health care.
Poor socio-economic conditions and personal hygiene (caused by a lack of water and soap for bathing and washing), scanty clothing, and overcrowding facilitate the spread of yaws.
About 75-80% of people affected are children under 15 years of age, and they constitute the main reservoir of infection.
Peak incidence occurs in children aged 6–10 years, and males and females are equally affected.
Transmission is through direct (person-to-person) non-sexual contact of minor injuries of an uninfected person with the fluid from the yaws lesion of an infected person. Most lesions occur on the limbs. The initial lesion of yaws is teemed with the bacteria.
The incubation period is 9–90 days, with an average of 21 days.
Without treatment, infection can lead to chronic disfigurement and disability.
There is no vaccine against yaws.
Prevention is based on interruption of transmission through early diagnosis and treatment of individuals and their contacts. Health education and improvement in personal hygiene are essential components of prevention.
Timeline of India’s triumph over Yaws
In 2004, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare reported interruption of indigenous yaws transmission after 7 years of intensive implementation of eradication activities.
On 19 September 2006 – and after 3 consecutive years of reporting of zero cases – the Government of India declared yaws elimination in the country.
Active case searches and serosurveys were maintained with no new cases or evidence of transmission. Following a formal request by the Government of India in March 2015, an independent International Verification Team confirmed interruption of transmission in October 2015.
WHO certified India Yaws free on 14 July 2016.
New Tool to help eradicate Yaws globally
The finding in 2012 that a single-dose of azithromycin is as effective as injectable benzathine penicillin has improved prospects for accelerated eradication of yaws.
Oral administration of azithromycin on a large-scale to entire eligible populations is feasible and obviates the need for injections, which require administration by trained health-care workers.
Link to WHO media release on the event:
Link to Media release by WHO SEARO:
Link to WHO fact sheet on Yaws (updated June 2016):
Link to Yaws Recognition Booklet for Communities:
Link to WHO’s ’10 facts on Yaws’ page:
Link to the summary report of a WHO consultation to eradicate Yaws:
Link to Documentary ‘End of the Road’ on Yaws and the use of oral Azithromycin for its treatment: