Ghana has joined 14 other African countries in eradicating Guinea worm disease. The announcement from the Carter Center in Atlanta says the disease cycle has been broken after a 23-year nationwide battle.
“For us, it’s a very happy occasion that Ghana has now reported zero cases of Guinea worm disease for 14 consecutive months,” said the director of the Carter Center’s guinea worm eradication program, Dr. Ernesto Ruiz-Tiben, adding that Ghana joins the group of 16 other countries that have eliminated the disease.
The African countries now free of Guinea worm are Nigeria, Niger, Togo, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Mauritania, Uganda, Northern Sudan, Central African Republic, Chad, Cameroon, Senegal and Kenya.
A debilitating disease
The disease is caused by a roundworm which can grow up to three feet in length. People become infected from drinking affected water which harbors the worm’s larvae. No symptoms occur until about a year later, when the parasite exits through the skin, causing a painful blister from which the worm emerges. When the affected person seeks relief in water, the parasite releases the larvae, creating a vicious cycle.
African countries remaining endemic are Ethiopia, Mali and the Republic of South Sudan, which has 99% of the remaining cases.
Dr. Ruiz-Tiben said the Carter Center chose to combat this debilitating disease by working to keep it from “affecting the poorest of the poor, the forgotten people with this forgotten disease, in forgotten places in Africa and Asia because no one else was doing it” and because of the Center’s belief that good health is a human right. The Carter Center began the Guinea worm eradication campaign in 1986.