If eradicated, the illness caused by Guinea worm would be only the second human disease in history completely wiped out, following smallpox, according to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And, if Guinea worm disease is eradicated, it will be a milestone reached not because of a medicine or vaccine. Experts point to a dramatic change in behaviors and community-based outreach and mobilizations as keys to suppressing the disease.
“Rosalynn and I are pleased with this continued advance toward eradicating Guinea worm disease,” said former President Jimmy Carter, the founder of the Carter Center. “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.”
Guinea worm disease results from people swallowing parasite larvae in water or undercooked fish. Larvae mate inside the body. Thin female worms can grow up to three feet.
After about a year, the worms try to escape from the body, emerging through painful and disabling skin lesions.