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EPI target diseases: measles, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, pertussis, and diphtheria.

Rodrigues LC
In: Disease and mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa, edited by Richard G. Feachem, Dean T. Jamison. Oxford, England, Oxford University Press, 1991. 173-89.

In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), 1% of all children die of neonatal tetanus, 9% of measles, 3% of tuberculosis (TB), and 4% of pertussis. Further, .6% acquire paralytic polio. 20% of the .6% who acquire diphtheria die. Even though vaccination can control these diseases, only 20% of children in SSA receive the complete course of vaccination against the 6 diseases targeted by WHO's Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI). But high vaccine coverage is not always a cure-all. For example, in the Gambia coverage is high but high mortality levels persist. Of the EPI diseases, measles is the greatest threat since it kills 2 million people annually in developing countries. Measles related mortality is highest in the 9 months following the disease. Even though tetanus is a major cause of death in neonates, tetanus also kills adults such as those that work with the land. Further the tetanus vaccination is effective in adults, but no adult program operates in SSA. Trained midwives reduce neonatal tetanus mortality by 76.6% and vaccination of pregnant mothers with 2 doses of tetanus toxoid reduces mortality 93.3%. Lameness surveys in SSA countries show that, contrary to earlier beliefs, paralytic polio is quite common (range 0.7-13.2). Administration of the oral polio vaccine and improved sanitation are responsible for a real fall in polio cases in the Gambia, the Ivory Coast, and Cameroon. TB was introduced into SSA in the 19th century. It mainly occurs in adults. The estimated life long risk of developing smear positive TB in SSA is 63. The case fatality rate of pertussis in the 1st year of life is high (3.2) and infants do no acquire maternal immunity against it, so the best control measures are early vaccination and identifying secondary cases among young siblings. Of the EPI diseases, scientists know the least about diphtheria in SSA. Its case fatality rate is high (11-38%) yet it is treatable. Primary problems of adequate vaccination coverage for the EPI diseases are managerial problems rather than technological.

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