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Media Examine Efforts To Eradicate Guinea Worm

Agence France-Presse reports on efforts to eradicate Guinea worm, a “painful water-borne parasite that can leave people weakened and sick for months every year” (2/17). “Once common across Africa and Asia, with some 3.9 million cases in 1986, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the thread-like worm is now limited to pockets of Mali, Ghana, Ethiopia and Southern Sudan,” IRIN writes. “Some 80 percent of cases worldwide are in Southern Sudan, a region left in ruins by a 22-year long civil war, which ended in the 2005,” according to the news service (2/17). 

Beginning in 1989, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter began working through his non-profit Carter Center, to wipe out the Guinea worm in Sudan, AFP writes. Carter “said that when they started their project in southern Sudan they found more than 100,000 cases of infection,” AFP writes. “‘Last year we had about 2,500 cases, and we believe that in the next two or three years we will have zero cases of Guinea worm in Sudan,’ he said during a mid-February visit to Lojura where he met worm-infected villagers,” according to the news service.

Carter noted that the eradication of the Guinea worm will mark “the second disease in history ever eradicated from the face of the earth,” following “smallpox now almost 20 years ago,” writes AFP.

The article highlights how though there is no vaccine to protect or medicine to kill off the parasite, thousands of health workers educate the public on ways to protect themselves from the parasite – such as use of a simple water filter – and stop the replication of the parasite. The article also highlights the social and economic toll Guinea worm has on populations at-risk of infection (2/17).

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