On Thursday, The Carter Center announced that only 22 cases of Guinea worm disease were reported in 2015— a reduction of 83% from 2014. This quite remarkable, as when The Carter Center began leading the international campaign to eradicate the parasitic disease in 1986, there were an estimated 3.5 million Guinea worm cases occurring annually in Africa and Asia.
"As we get closer to zero, each case takes on increasing importance. Full surveillance must continue in the few remaining endemic nations and neighboring countries until no cases remain to ensure the disease does not return," said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. "The Carter Center and our partners are committed to seeing that this horrible parasitic disease never afflicts future generations."
Considered a neglected tropical disease, Guinea worm disease (Dracunculiasis) is contracted when people consume water contaminated with Guinea worm larvae. After a year, a meter-long worm slowly emerges from the body through a painful blister in the skin. Guinea worm incapacitates people for weeks or months, making them unable to care for themselves, work, grow food for their families, or attend school.
Without a vaccine or medical treatment, the ancient disease is being wiped out mainly through community-based interventions to educate and change behavior, such as teaching people to filter all drinking water and preventing contamination by keeping anyone with an emerging worm from entering water sources.
Guinea worm will be the first parasitic disease to be eradicated and the first disease to be eradicated without the use of vaccine or curative treatment.
"Tens of thousands of community-based health workers have shown daily acts of courage to improve the lives of their families and neighbors over three decades, often under very dangerous circumstances. Because of them, the end is in sight," said Craig Withers, acting vice president of Carter Center Health Programs.
For a disease to be reported as totally eradicated, every country must be certified, even if transmission has never taken place there. Read the full press release here.
The Carter Center was founded by former President Jimmy Carter, 91, and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, 88. To learn more about The Carter Center’s peace, health, democracy and human rights programs, visit their website here. The center’s mission: Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope. And in so many ways they have succeeded.
A Facebook Page called Honoring Jimmy Carter has been created to pay tribute to President Carter and often pay tribute Mrs. Carter. You can visit Honoring Jimmy Carter here.