World Headlines
Disease Nears Extinction
By Charlie Golestani
Jul 18, 2012 - 11:42:42 AM

SOUTH SUDANWater-borne illness is the result of 3.4 million deaths worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization, and one such crippling disease is almost the second of any disease, after small pox, to be eradicated.

Guinea worm disease or Dracunculiasis, while rarely fatal, has crippling effects on those harboring the roundworm. Larvae riding the backs of water fleas are ingested, generally migrate to the lower extremities and eventually emerge through the skin between 10 and 14 months later, according to WHO.

The results are painful blisters or swelling where the female worms, which can measure anywhere from 60 to 100 centimeters long, burst through the skin. The host is often bed ridden as a result of the pain.
Extraction of the mature worm. Image courtesy of Vanessa Vick, Redux Pictures

In the mid-1980s, 3.5 million cases of Guinea worm disease were reported in 20 countries, 16 in Africa alone.

A report from the United Nations states four out of every 10 people do not have access to clean water, a problem specific to Africa and Asia.

The most recent figures in 2011 showed an approximate 99 percent decrease, down to 1,058 cases, compared with two decades ago and the only reported cases to date have been in Chad, Ethiopia, Mali and South Sudan.

South Sudan, however, represents 97 percent of the reported cases today, accounting for 1,028 of the cases reported in 2011, according to figures from the Carter Center.

The Carter Center has been at the helm of guinea worm disease eradication since its inception in 1986 by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter.

“We are approaching the demise of the last guinea worm who will ever live on earth,” [sic] Carter said.

WHO’s Collaborating Center for Research, Training and Eradication of Dracunculiasis recently reported that as of June 2012, the number of reported cases between January and May was down 57 percent from numbers taken from the same period in 2011.

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