The once common guinea worm disease, which used to be present in Africa and some parts of the Middle East and Asia, has almost been eradicated. Guinea worm disease is a parasite-caused disease that is prevalent in areas that lack access to clean drinking water. The worm’s larvae exist in many various types of water such as wells and lakes and fleas carry them making it easy for people to ingest them into their bodies. Guinea worm disease is a disease that directly affects people suffering from extreme poverty, as only exists in the 10% of the world’s population that lacks access to clean and safe water along with adequate health care.
How it Affects the Body
Someone who has contracted guinea worm disease often experiences symptoms such as fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, rash and more. People can remove the worm from the skin in a painful procedure, however, removing the worm can lead to many complications along with the possibility of bacterial infection. If a person does not fully extract the worm from the body, the dead worm’s remains in the skin can cause even more discomfort and issues in the surrounding area.
Though death is not terribly common with this disease, guinea worm disease can result in disabilities and impairment to the affected individual. The pain can become so extreme that mobility becomes difficult. These complications result in losing many days of work, schooling and many other important aspects of life and can even leave people impaired for months at a time. This leads to many financial losses for those suffering from the disease due to the inability to work.
Cases Over the Years
In 1985, there were around 892,055 cases of guinea worm disease worldwide. These cases mostly occurred in areas such as Western Africa, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya along with countries in Asia such as Pakistan and India. In 2022, however, there were only 13 cases worldwide, making it an all-time record low of reported cases. There is no vaccine or medicine that can prevent this disease, so the progress that the world has seen in eradicating this disease is in part to many volunteers heading to these remote places in the world. The Carter Center, which former president Jimmy Carter co-founded, became the leader of the fight to eradicate this disease in 1986. Since then, the volunteers that went to help these communities provided water filters, larvacides (an insecticide to kill mosquitos) and proper water safety education.
With only 13 cases worldwide as of last year, guinea worm disease will become the second disease after smallpox to undergo eradication without a vaccine or medicine. Former President Carter was pleased to hear about the low number of cases, saying “Rosalynn and I are pleased with this continued advance toward eradicating Guinea worm disease. Our partners, especially those in the affected villages, work with us daily to rid the world of this scourge. We are heartened that eradication can be achieved soon.” Through the extensive work of these volunteers, this horrible and debilitating disease has become virtually eradicated in these poverty-stricken countries. Providing these villages with the proper education and equipment in order to properly fight this disease has led to the amazing progress that occurred over the past few decades.
– Olivia MacGregor