What is the Difference Between Elimination and Eradication

The main difference between elimination and eradication is that elimination is the reduction of the disease to zero new cases in a geographical area while eradication is the permeant and complete worldwide reduction to zero new cases of the disease.

Elimination and eradication are two important terms we use when discussing deliberate efforts to prevent the spread of a disease. Though these terms are similar, they have a different meaning in describing diseases.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Elimination 
     – Definition, Examples
2. What is Eradication
     – Definition, Process
3. Difference Between Elimination and Eradication
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Elimination, Eradication, DiseasesDifference Between Elimination and Eradication - Comparison Summary

What is Elimination

When discussing diseases and their spread, elimination refers to preventing the transmission of a disease in a specific geographic area, but not worldwide. Elimination involves deliberate efforts that result in the reduction to zero incidences of infection caused in a specific geographic area. Even though we eliminate a disease, there is a chance for the disease to transmit or re-emerge since the disease is globally prevalent. Therefore, we have to take actions to prevent re-emergence.

It’s the World Health Organization that has the authority to announce whether a country is free of a specific disease. For example, the WHO has announced that Sri Lanka has eliminated measles; however, it’s surrounding regions like India are not measles-free.

Difference Between Elimination and Eradication

Figure 1: Australia’s Measles Eradication Campaign

If a country wants to get the official elimination status by the WHO, it must request through a formal submission process. The WHO will grant certification of elimination only if a country proves that their interruption of disease transmission has lasted for three consecutive years, at a minimum.

What is Eradication

Disease eradication refers to the permeant reduction of a disease to zero cases through deliberate preventative actions such as vaccines. Eradication is not limited to a specific geographic location. It refers to the worldwide eradication of a disease. When we eradicate a disease, its worldwide transmission is over as there are no remaining cases. Therefore, further intervention measures are unnecessary. Smallpox is the only disease considered to be completely eradicated from the world. It was officially declared eradicated by the WHO in 1979.

Main Difference - Elimination vs Eradication

Furthermore, some diseases like polio, measles, mumps, rubella, lymphatic filariasis, cysticercosis, and Guinea worm disease are considered to be eradicable. To consider a disease as eradicable, it must meet certain criteria. These criteria include the followings:

  • The disease is infectious
  • Humans are the major host of the disease
  • Effective treatments are available to treat the disease
  • There are political and financial support for eradication

Difference Between Elimination and Eradication

Definition

Elimination refers to preventing the transmission of a disease in a specific geographic area, but not worldwide while eradication refers to the permeant reduction of a disease to zero cases through deliberate preventative actions such as vaccines.

Geographical Area

When a disease is eliminated, that disease is only absent in a certain geographical area; when a disease is eradicated, that disease is removed from the whole world.

Preventative Measures

When a disease is eliminated, preventative measures are necessary to stop the re-emergence of a disease in that area. However, when a disease is eradicated, further preventative measures are unnecessary.

Diseases

Elimination of measles in Sri Lanka is an example of disease elimination while eradication of smallpox is an example of disease eradication.

Conclusion

The main difference between elimination and eradication is that elimination is the reduction of the disease to zero new cases in a geographical area while eradication is the permeant and complete worldwide reduction to zero new cases of the disease.

Reference:

1. Roser, Max, et al. “Eradication of Diseases.” Our World in Data, 3 June 2014, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Graphs measles Australia 1991-2009” By Cruiser-Aust – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Smallpox Eradication Logo” By WHO, World Health Organization –  (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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