Friday, September 26, 2008

Killing the Worm

This month's issue of Good Magazine featured an article called Killing the Worm, by Austin Merrill, exposing the difficulty of eradicating Guinea worm disease in Ghana. Cases of Guinea worm disease have dropped dramatically in the last 20 years, but the painful disease that often affects children, is still persistent in northern Ghana.

Most often children contract Guinea work from swimming in or drinking water infested with water fleas that feed on Guinea larvae. One ingested the larvae penetrate the wall of the lower intestine and develop into worms. As they grow they tunnel through the body and eventually break through the skin of the victim. The article features first hand accounts of this painful process and notes the historical presence of this disease, tracing it back to Egyptian mummies.

In recent years international and multi-organizational efforts have been tasked with eradicating Guinea worm, but have faced the obstacles of local customs, community needs, and dissent among public health practices. If eradicated, Guinea worm disease will be only the second disease to be eradicated, small pox was the first.
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