The World Health Organization (WHO) has targeted yaws for global eradication. Eradication requires certification that all countries are yaws-free. While only 14 Member States currently report cases to WHO, many more are known to have a history of yaws and some of them may have ongoing transmission. We reviewed the literature and developed a model of case reports to identify countries in which passive surveillance is likely to find and report cases if transmission is still occurring, with the goal of reducing the number of countries in which more costly active surveillance will be required.
We reviewed published and unpublished documents to extract data on the number of yaws cases reported to WHO or appearing in other literature in any year between 1945 and 2015. We classified countries as: a) having interrupted transmission; b) being currently endemic; c) being previously endemic (current status unknown); or d) having no history of yaws. We constructed a panel dataset for the years 1945-2015 and ran a regression model to identify factors associated with some countries not reporting cases during periods when there was ongoing (and documented) transmission. For previously endemic countries whose current status is unknown, we then estimated the probability that countries would have reported cases if there had in fact been transmission in the last three years (2013-2015).
Yaws has been reported in 103 of the 237 countries and areas considered. 14 Member States and 1 territory (Wallis and Futuna Islands) are currently endemic. 2 countries are believed to have interrupted transmission. 86 countries and areas are previously endemic (current status unknown). Reported cases peaked in the 1950s, with 55 countries reporting at least one case in 1950 and a total of 2.35 million cases reported in 1954. Our regression model suggests that case reporting during periods of ongoing transmission is positively associated with socioeconomic development and, in the short-term, negatively associated with independence. We estimated that for 66 out of the 86 previously endemic countries whose current status is unknown, the probability of reporting cases in the absence of active surveillance is less than 50%.
Countries with a history of yaws need to be prioritized so that international resources for global yaws eradication may be deployed efficiently. Heretofore, the focus has been on mass treatment in countries currently reporting cases. It is also important to undertake surveillance in the 86 previously endemic countries for which the current status is unknown. Within this large and diverse group, we have identified a group of 20 countries with more than a 50% probability of reporting cases in the absence of active surveillance. For the other 66 countries, international support for active surveillance will likely be required.