Yaws is a long-term infectious disease that occurs in children. Yaws is a bacterial infection that infects the skin first and later gets into the joints and bones. Yaws infection is chronic and recurs many times in the same person. The infection is contagious and spreads by skin contact through injury or cut in the skin. This bacterial infection can be cured by penicillin antibiotic. Some of the other names for yaws infection are parangi, paru and frambesia tropica.
Yaws infection would begin on the skin in the form of small lesions on the hands or feet or face. Eventually the lesion would shed giving rise to secondary lesions on other parts of the body. Children below 15 years are more prone to develop yaws infection than adults. The bacterium remains dormant for 2-8 weeks after which it causes lesions or blisters on the skin.
Yaws is a bacterial infection caused by Treponema pertenue. It is the same bacterium species that causes syphilis infection in adults. The bacterium would gain entry through small cut or bruises on the skin from the infected person. The first lesion is called as mother yaw which would give rise to daughter lesions subsequently after shedding. It leaves a scar on the site after the lesion burst open.
Yaws infection occurs in 4 stages :
- The first lesion or the mother yaw appears in the primary stage.
- After the death of primary lesion secondary stage begins with the development of daughter yaws. They appear in the form of painless lesions or sometimes filled with pus causing pain. At this stage, the child may feel tired and may not feel hungry.
- In the latent stage, the disease may further advance causing swelling of lymph nodes.
- In the tertiary stage, the infection would have spread into the joints and bones destroying the skin fully.
Diagnosis of yaws can be made by mere physical examination of the affected child. Further the doctor would order for blood culture and biopsy of the tissue sample collected from the lesion. The bacterium can be identified when the tissue is viewed through a microscope.
A single shot of penicillin antibiotic is effective in curing yaws infection. It can be given either orally in the form of tablets for a week or more or in the form of injection. Children who are allergic to penicillin are given alternative antibiotics like erythromycin or doxycycline. No vaccine has been invented for yaws infection so far.
How common is it?
Yaws infection has posed a health concern in tropical areas of South and Central America and in some parts of Asia and Africa. Areas that are poor in hygiene and overcrowded are more prone to develop an epidemic. In case of suspicion, the entire population can be given a shot of penicillin as a preventive measure.