Yaws

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Overview

Yaws is a non-venereal tropical infectious disease caused by the organism Treponema pertenue. This organism is closely related to the syphilitic spirochete, Treponema pallidum. Yaws is most commonly seen among children in tropical regions and is spread by skin-to-skin contact. The disease is characterized by an acute phase followed by a chronic, relapsing course in a minority of patients. Clinically, the disease is comprised of distinct stages similar to venereal syphilis with cutaneous findings in early stages, and after a latent period, late yaws may manifest as gummatous nodules, scarring, and destructive bone lesions. Treatment was traditionally benzathine penicillin-G, but as a single dose of azithromycin has been found to equally effective. for primary and secondary stages, the latter has become the cornerstone of therapy. The World Health Organization (WHO) proposes possible eradication of Yaws by 2020.

Symptoms

A single, itchy, raspberry-like growth (mother yaw) on the skin, usually on the legs or buttocks, which eventually develops a thin, yellow crust.

Swollen lymph nodes (swollen glands)

A rash that forms a brown crust.

Bone and joint pain.

Causes

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 three infections.

Risk factors

Having a family member with yaws (due to close proximity)

Living in the endemic zone (warm, humid and moist climates)

Overcrowding.

Poor hygiene.

Low socio-economic status.

Children between 2 and 15 years.

Wounds or abrasions on the skin.

Poor sanitation.

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Complications

Yaws may damage the skin and bones. It can affect a person's appearance and ability to move. It can also cause deformities of the legs, nose, palate, and upper jaw.

Prevention

There is no vaccine available to prevent yaws. However, the WHO has established a yaws eradication strategy also referred to as the Morges strategy by which the organization has established a goal of eradicating yaws by about 2020. Because this disease is spread by person-to-person transfer and has no animal reservoir, the WHO considers this a realistic goal.

Currently, for individuals, prevention is based on interrupting the transmission of the disease from person to person by practicing good hygiene and by early diagnosis and rapid appropriate treatment with azithromycin to prevent spread in the community.

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