The Washington Post examines global efforts to eradicate Guinea worm disease, writing, "The parasitic infection which has sickened millions, mostly in Asia and Africa, is on the verge of being done in not by sophisticated medicine but by aggressive public health efforts in some of the poorest and most remote parts of the world." According to the newspaper, "hundreds of thousands of volunteers" have contributed to fighting the waterborne parasite, by handing out filtered drinking straws or treating water sources with larvicide, among other efforts, and "[a]s a result, the ailment, also known as dracunculiasis, is poised to become the second human disease (the first was smallpox) to be eradicated -- and the first to be eliminated without the aid of a vaccine."
The newspaper details the campaign against Guinea worm since "former President Jimmy Carter, in conjunction with the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spearheaded the effort to eradicate the parasite in 1986," and notes Donald Hopkins, director of health programs at the Carter Center in Atlanta, "said the Guinea worm eradication campaign is a rare success in fighting infectious disease." However, "as the number of cases dwindles, eradication becomes more challenging," the Washington Post adds. "'This is the last stage, the hardest time of all, because there are so many competing health priorities in countries battling Guinea worm,' said Sharon Roy, a CDC medical epidemiologist," the newspaper writes. "When you're getting down to just a few cases, it takes a great deal of political will to keep the momentum to get to the very last worm," she added, the newspaper notes (Botelho, 8/27).
This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.