Professor David H. Molyneux, Senior Professorial Fellow of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK, has called for appropriate and consistent use of terminologies in the fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).
This is because, misuse of terms like eradication and elimination could communicate different meanings and have negative effects on efforts at combating the diseases.
Prof. Molyneux who was delivering a second lecture at a two-day Fourth University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS) Leadership Lecture Series in memory of late President, Prof. John Evans Atta-Mills at the main campus of the University in Ho, appealed to major actors such as the media to use the terminologies appropriately.
The lecture was under the theme: “The Emerging Challenges of Disease Eradication and Elimination” and attracted people in the academia, politics and media among others.
Prof. Molyneux explained that whereas eradication presented permanent reduction to zero of worldwide incidence of infection caused by specific agent, elimination assumed similar semblance but limited itself to geographical areas resulting from deliberate efforts or intervention.
He said control and extinction as used in NTDs specifically meant reduction of disease incidence, prevalence, morbidity or mortality to a locally acceptable level resulting from continued intervention or deliberate efforts and non-existence in nature or laboratory specific infectious agent, respectively.
The renowned Researcher said smallpox, hookworm and yaws have been eradicated through hard work and was hopeful with sustained intervention and cooperation, targets for other diseases would be achieved.
He said international taskforce for disease eradication is focusing on Dracunculiasis, Polio, Cysticercosis, Rubella, Lymphatic filariasis and Mumps.
Prof. Molyneux said global reported cases of guinea worm disease fell to only 25 cases in 2016 compared to 3.5 million cases in 1989.
He said international reported cases showed 154 cases in 2002 and zero cases in 2016, with endemic villages accounting for 23,735 cases in 1993 compared to only 19 in 2016 with endemic countries reduced to three from 21 countries in 1986.
In Ghana, for instance, Prof. Molyneux said reported cases rose to 179,668 in 1989 but came to zero from 2011 to 2014 and still counting.
He said Ghana had therefore chalked tremendous successes in the elimination of guineaworm, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, sleeping sickness and onchocerciasis.
Prof. Molyneux said the final challenges for eradication included access to endemic villages and surveillance in Mali, due to insecurity and remoteness of endemic areas in Ethiopia.
He said the dilemma of dogs and potential wild reservoirs in wild cats and baboons in Chad and Ethiopia is impeding elimination and eradication.
Prof. Molyneux mentioned the essential components of guinea worm eradication as surveillance, availability of clean water, filtering contaminated water, temephos (kill copepods in water bodies), health education, case containment, monetary reward and rumour registration.
Mr Justice Jones Mawulorm Dotse, Council Chairman, UHAS, believed donor fatigue obstructed the smooth elimination and control of NTDs and urged finance professionals disbursing funds to find space and flexibility and make resources and logistics available to boost the process of elimination of diseases.