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So many of you might have heard that smallpox is the only disease in history to be eradicated humans. This was announced by the WHO in 1980 through the use of global vaccination measures, prevention and surveillance. Now we’re close to eradicating another disease. You might never have heard of it though; it’s called Guinea Worm Disease.
Called Dracunculiasis, the disease is basically the growth of the Guinea worm inside the body. This happens when humans ingest the larvae of the worm in contaminated water. The worm grows in the intestine, boring through its wall and penetrating muscle and skin till it (usually) protrudes out the foot through an excruciatingly painful blister. If the patient tries to soothe the pain by placing his foot in water, larvae are released and the process repeats.
US President Jimmy Carter, on a trip to Ghana in 1980, saw the effects first-hand. He saw a woman cradling her own breast as if it were a baby. It had grown about a foot long and a Guinea worm was coming out of her nipple. This prompted a humanitarian effort on his part.
Since transmission was only through ingestion, it was just a matter of educating people and giving them water filtration devices. These included a plastic pipe with a steel mesh filter that could make polluted water drinkable.
in 1986 there were 3.5 million cases of Dracunculiasis, today there are 126. And the disease is only endemic in 30 village in four African countries. The end is near.