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
    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.

    Kane Farabaugh

    Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    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.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora