News / Health

Carter Center Marks Progress in Fight Against Guinea Worm, River Blindness

Carter Center Marks Progress in Fight Against Guinea Worm, River Blindnessi
X
Kane Farabaugh
April 05, 2014 2:12 AM
Guinea worm disease and river blindness are among 17 tropical diseases the World Health Organization considers neglected. Thanks to the efforts of the Atlanta-based Carter Center, founded by former president Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, focused treatment and prevention are leading to the elimination of one, and the extinction of another. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh talked with the former president about progress in fighting these neglected diseases.

Carter Center Marks Progress in Fight Against Guinea Worm, River Blindness

Kane Farabaugh
Guinea worm disease and river blindness are among 17 tropical diseases the World Health Organization considers neglected. Thanks to the efforts of the Atlanta-based Carter Center -- founded by former president Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn -- focused treatment and prevention are leading to the elimination of one, and the extinction of another.

When Carter and the Carter Center staff started working to eradicate Guinea Worm disease in 1986, it was found in 21 countries in Africa and Asia.

“We had three-and-a-half million cases of guinea worm, and village by village we have done away with it. Last year, we only had 146 cases in the whole world,” he said.

Most of the remaining infections by the parasitic worm are found in South Sudan, where Carter said, despite the recent unrest, the Carter Center continues working to prevent transmission of the disease by monitoring and filtering water sources.

“At this moment we have about 212 people on our payroll, almost all of whom have been trained locally, and about 8,000 women who volunteer their services,” he said.

Eliminating river blindness

Elsewhere in Africa, the Carter Center has shifted its focus from controlling river blindness - another parasitic infection - to eliminating it.

While river blindness can’t be eradicated like Guinea worm, the Carter Center discovered that by modifying the dosage of the antibiotic ivermectin, the disease could be eliminated in the human body.

“If we gave two to four pills a year, then the adult worms that created the microfilaria would be eliminated. We found that out in Latin America, in six countries, we could completely do away with river blindness permanently. Now we've tried that in Africa and found it to be successful again,” said Carter.

The World Health Organization reports about 18 million people worldwide suffer from river blindness, 99 percent of them in Africa.

“It can be so itchy that these patients can itch their skin so much that part of their skin goes white. And then there’s a huge stigma still in some parts of Africa associating some parts of skin going white with leprosy,” said Dr. Aisha Sethi, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at the University of Chicago Medical Center. She said river blindness, which is the second leading cause of preventable blindness by infection, hurts both people and the economy.  

“You see the more people that are poor, and are sick, you are losing the working capacity of that country. You are losing money that families are making towards treatment of that person,” she said.

Sethi is originally from Pakistan, one of the first countries where the Carter Center eradicated Guinea Worm. As she works on a field manual about neglected tropical diseases she hopes to publish in a few years, one uncertainty about the book is how to represent Guinea Worm.

“I don’t know if we’ll have guinea worm in there other than as a historic perspective. Maybe by the time the book comes out we might be down to zero cases,” she said.

Zero cases is the goal of the Carter Center and an achievement that former president Carter, who turns 90 in October, is confident he will witness in his lifetime.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid