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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Eradicating Guinea Worm

A patient at the CAse Containment Center in Savelugu, Ghana, has two guinea worms emerging from his foot. (Courtesy of The Carter Center/L. Gubb)

A patient in Savelugu, Ghana, with two guinea worms emerging from his foot. (Courtesy of The Carter Center/L. Gubb)

Only one human disease has ever been completely eradicated — smallpox — but we are now close to eliminating a second: dracunculiasis or Guinea worm disease.

Guinea worm disease is a parasitic worm infection that occurs mainly in Africa. It’s contracted by drinking standing water that contains water fleas that harbor the tiny larvae of the Guinea worm. The worm then grows inside a person’s abdomen, and can become as large as three feet long.

“People are energized, they are able to work, because you’ve had farmers unable to farm, school children unable to go to school for months on end.”
– Dr. Donald Hopkins, on how people respond when they're able to prevent Guinea worm infections

The nonprofit Carter Center has been giving technical and financial assistance to national eradication programs across the world since 1986.

Back then, there were 3.5 million cases. Today there are just over a thousand cases worldwide, primarily in Sudan.

A big part of the Carter Center’s work is outreach and educating people about how to use filters to separate out the water fleas that carry the infective larvae.

Dr. Donald Hopkins, vice president of health programs at the Carter Center, told Here and Now‘s Robin Young that people in Africa who have been able to protect themselves from the infection using water filters are greatly relieved.

“People are energized, they are able to work, because you’ve had farmers unable to farm, school children unable to go to school for months on end,” he said.

Hopkins said that getting rid of a disease that villagers have suffered for generations has empowered them.

“That encourages them to think about other ways they can improve their lives as well,” he said.


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  • Anonymous

    I’m trying to eat my lunch here!

    This is the most disgusting conversation I have ever heard.  I had to take the ear plugs out.

    I’m very glad to hear that we are close to eradicating this parasite…  Even the picture is disgusting.

  • Musa

    This photo is too scary to watch. Thanks for your enlightenment. Musa

  • Sunny

    This is reality folks. Get used to it.
    I see comments such as too scary to watch or most disgusting.
    Why do you think Big Food keeps all those animal processing plants out in the middle of nowhere.
    So you don’t have to hear the cows, pigs, chicken, etc. cry, scream, yelp or whatever before they are killed for your food.
    Also these processing plants are out in the sticks for another reason. So you don’t have to smell what is emanating from them.
    Its called “distancing” in the business. Out of sight and out of mind.

    Back the guinea worms and other tropical parasites especially the worms.
    I have personally extracted dozens of these from the locals and also from Western travellers to these countries who acquire them by walking around barefoot. Its especially hazardous if one has open cuts or sores in areas where these parasites can enter. One example is leptospirosis.
    This is what the world deals with in many regions where the water is dirty. More diseases in the tropics and the Third World in general are due to dirty drinking water and mismanagement of human and animal wastes.

    What I find disgusting in response to Call Me Missouri the ignorance level with educated humans, especially Americans when it comes to these issues.

  • Felixcross120

    wow thats it all i have to say is wow

  • Cross

    this is honestley the most disturbing thing ive ever seen

    • Felixcross120

      im sorry but it is and hell im only 15 okay so dont critsize

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