Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter tries to comfort 6-year-old Ruhama Issah at Savelugu (Ghana) Hospital as a Carter Center technical assistant dresses Issah's extremely painful Guinea worm wound. In May 2010, with Carter Center support, Ghana reported its last case of Guinea worm disease and announced it had stopped disease transmission a year later. Location: Savelugu, Ghana
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter just may see his 91st birthday wish come true. His hope is to “outlive” the Guinea Worm. Now, with only two known cases left (down from three million in 1980), the extinction of this human disease will be the first to be eradication since smallpox. There is no cure for the Guinea Worm Disease, also known as River Blindness Disease, and it has taken over three decades of The Carter Center and its partners working around the world to make this amazing feat happen.
The current two known cases are in Chad and Ethiopia and were believed to have been contained before they had a chance to spread. Though it’s not a fatal disease, it’s pretty horrible, reports NPR, thus giving the worm its nickname, “fiery serpent.”
There is no vaccine or medication to kill the worms. The only treatment is to slowly extract the worm from an infected person's body, sometimes through incision with a hot burning hot knife. The other common way is twisting the worm around a small stick to slowly reel it out of the body once emerged. Often wounds from blister incisions became infected.Guinea worm larvae live in fresh water. When people drink from contaminated ponds and other bodies of stagnant water, they can become infected with the parasite. The larvae turn into worms that can grow to be up to 3 feet long. After about a year, the worm creates a blister, typically on the legs or feet, for its slow and painful exit. When the worm first erupts, the person suffers a burning sensation and often seeks comfort by submerging the wound in a lake or a stream. The worm takes this opportunity to release a cloud of tens of thousands of larvae into the water. Other people end up drinking that larvae-laden water, which starts the cycle all over again.
For a long time the disease continued to spread because people didn’t know it came from their drinking water/watering holes/water sources. These sources became contaminated each time someone stepped in or put infected body parts into the water to relive pain from the disease. Since there is no cure, getting rid of the disease is about getting people to change their behavior — then do the right thing, not always an easy task. Sometimes guards were posted by watering holes and people were punished if they violated the laws. A Carter Center spokesperson said the key is education and also to engage the community rather than have outsiders come in and make demands. It’s better to explain to the community that this parasite is coming from their drinking water and convince them that they have the power to stop it."It wasn't just a minor parasite. It was serious," says Ringo Naah Sulley, the district director of Asante Akim South District Health Services. "In one person about three or four worms could appear on any part of the body. You have to extract one after the other until you get all the parasites out."
Congratulations to Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jimmy Carter and to The Carter Center founded by Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in 1981.
At 91, Jimmy Carter continues to advocate for human rights with relentless and veracious fortitude. To honor him, over 164,000 people have joined the Facebook page, Honoring Jimmy Carter and are sharing their thoughts about this remarkable man. In addition, many are also showing their appreciation by signing the Thank you note to Jimmy Carter petition below.
Now there is a man I much admire, was laughed at on many occasions when he was President, but has done more good than all of them put together.
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