Diseases Humanity Has Almost Eradicated

As John Lennon and Paul McCartney famously put it, "No, you shut up." And as they even more famously put it, "It's getting better, a little better, all the time." Humanity has its flaws. We can seem like we're taking two flirty little steps back for every leap forward. In truth, though, we are remarkable, resilient, and tenacious. We've built structures which have lasted for millennia. We have sent people into outer space and, more often than not, brought them back to Earth. We're the only species in the recorded history of our planet that's proven itself capable of both skywriting and populating an entire virtual locomotive with Tom Hanks.

And when the going gets tough, we adapt. We love surviving, maybe as much as we love blowing each other up, and from time to time, our greatest minds join forces to punch mortality square in the breadbasket, refusing to go gentle into that good night. Through acumen and fastidiousness, we've managed to chuck more than a few deadly diseases off the side of the skyscraper of history like virologist Bruce Willis characters welcoming microscopic life-threatening organisms to the party, pal.

Smallpox is a thing of the past

In the war on disease, few battles have been won with the same degree of success as the fight against smallpox. Smallpox can be credibly traced back to the 15th century BC, and the toll it took on humanity is difficult to overstate. Depending on the severity, mortality rates sat between 10 and 75 percent. It was highly contagious, debilitating, and horrific. Then, through a global, decades-long effort and – and this is important – steadfast adherence to vaccination, it was declared officially eradicated by the World Health Assembly in May of 1980.

Then there's Guinea worm, AKA Dracunculus medinensis, the parasite which once ravaged countries in Africa and Asia. Our best estimates state that 3.5 million cases were present in 1986. Through low-cost water filtration and education, organizations like the Carter Center have managed to bring that down to 53 cases in 2019. If entirely eradicated, it would represent the first time in history that humanity wiped out a parasitic disease. They're also working to make river blindness, another parasitic affliction, a thing of the past.

And that's not all

Measles, mumps, and rubella. According to the World Economic Forum, there was a time when hundreds of thousands of cases were present in the United States at any given time. Today, all three have all been brought to a standstill through – and not to hammer too hard on this – vaccinations. Cases of polio have dropped over 99 percent since 1988, thanks to – no, really, but this is important – a single vaccination.

Basically, the point here is that as a species, we're nature's own Little Engine That Could. The world is scary, but thanks to the people who stare it down, we keep moving forward. We're strong, we're clever, and we're kind. There are always people dedicated to taking care of other people. That's something to look out for. And more than that, historically? We just refuse to stop telling infectious diseases to eat our shorts. We're going to be okay.

Also, please get vaccinated.