World health report

Executive summary

Breaking the chains

Focusing on the ways in which diseases are transmitted, this report explains the present situation, and the interventions needed to achieve prevention or control. Breaking the chains of transmission is possible. A handful of diseases are within range of elimination or eradication in the next few years and others are under control. Poliomyelitis and guinea-worm disease, for example, could be eradicated by the end of the century. Leprosy could be eliminated as a public health danger. However, the eradication of a disease is an immensely difficult task, fully achieved only once, with the last reported case of smallpox in 1977, and global eradication announced in 1980. This success has not been repeated, due mainly to logistical problems and a series of events and developments, some natural and others man-made, that have occurred in recent years. Some are poverty-related, while others are the consequences of economic prosperity.