Guinea worm is an infection disease caused by the roundworm parasite named Dracunculus medenisis. In 1986,the disease affected as many as 3.5 million people a year in 20 countries in Africa and Asia. Today the incidence of Guinea worm has been reduced by more than 99%. This can be attributed to the work of many, including The Carter Center, the nonprofit organization founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. The Center works in more than 70 countries, and has had a hand in the near elimination of Guinea worm. Sudan carries the heaviest burden of the disease, however, great strides have been made in 2010 there were only 1,700 cases of Guinea worm worldwide. Read all about the progress of Guinea worm eradication and The Carter Center on The Spiegel Online International article released today. Also, President Carter was recently featured on CNN check out the video entitled, Jimmy Carters dream of eradication.
Posts Tagged Sudan
A new list of reads for your reading pleasure! Today were reading about a successful experimental treatment for victims of trachoma, the current state of global immunization, the spread of trachoma within the Northern Bahr el Ghazal region of Sudan, and Lymphatic filariasis in India.
Experimental vision cure proves successful, Thomas H. Maugh, Los Angeles Times Global immunizations hit record but miss millions, David Morgan, Reuters Mystery eye disease spreads across Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Ngor Arol Garang, Sudan Tribune Lymphatic filariasis in India: Epidemiology and control measures, S Sabesan, P Vanamail, KHK Raju, P Jambulingam, Journal of Postgraduate Medicine
by: Alanna Shaikh
You may recall that back when I made my debut on this blog, I renamed Guinea Worm to “Spend a month pulling a long worm out of a hole in your body disease.” Well, if you ever wanted to see exactly what’s involved in that month-long process, I have a movie for you.
“Foul Water Fiery Serpent” is a new documentary that tracks efforts to eliminate Dracunculiasis (Guinea Worm) in Sudan and Ghana. I haven’t seen it yet, but I watched the trailer and the very cool animation of the guinea worm. (And yes, the trailer does show an actual worm extraction. That’s why it’s labeled “viewer discretion advised.”)
The film documents three years of eradication efforts in the two countries, and I think it’s an interesting insight into the difficult mechanics of disease eradication. As the film’s website states, they follow health workers as they “distribute filter cloths, treat water sources with safe pesticide, educate villagers about avoiding the worms, and treat victims suffering from the disease.”
It’s unusual to have a film that really looks at this kind of prevention work. It’s a lot easier to hook an audience if you focus on sick kids and glamorous cures. Taking the time to look at where a disease like Guinea Worm comes from and how you can keep infection from spreading is a lot harder but, I think, makes for a better story in the end. It’s not really a story if you only tell 20% of it, right?
I admit the film’s website is a little over the top:
“Through a relentless cycle of successes and failures, facing ignorance and superstition in a vast landscape ravaged by war, the heroes in this story are making medical history in an epic struggle to drive an ancient enemy into extinction…Following the victory against smallpox, Guinea worm is likely to be the next disease in the history of mankind to be eradicated from the Earth.”
They have a point, but I suspect they could have made it with fewer adjectives. Though I guess you have to respect anyone who can get that excited about a tropical disease. I seem to be seeing all sides of this discussion.
Whatever you think about the language of the website, it is a compelling movie on a topic that can be very dry. If you work in global health, and you’ve ever wanted to show your friends what you do for a living, this movie might be your key to seeming extremely cool. (Then you have to admit that you plan and administer efforts like these and don’t ever actually talk to Sudanese villagers, but that’s a topic for another day.)
Aside from making public health professionals look cool, the movie rightfully highlights the incredible efforts that have been made to eradicate Guinea Worm. We’re not going to eliminate tropical disease with a lot of this kind of spade work, and this film shows us exactly what that work will look like.
(Possibly my favorite thing about the movie, by the way, is this accompanying interview with Makoy Samuel Yibi)
Alanna Shaikh is an expert in health consulting, writing about global health for UN Dispatch and about international relief and development at Blood & Milk. She also serves as a frequently contributing blogger to ‘End the Neglect.”
Surprisingly lost amongst the many breaking news stories this past week was the start of national elections in Sudan. For the first time since civil war broke out in 1983, the nation is casting ballots in relative peace in both presidential and parliamentary elections. The elections also mark a precursor to the 2011 referendum on southern Sudan’s independence. Sudan isn’t just war-torn, it’s also disease ravaged. Southern Sudan is believed to have one of the largest NTD burdens of anywhere in the world. It is essential that the elections go smoothly so that health concerns, including NTD treatment, are addressed.
In 1983, tensions between northern and southern Sudan exploded into a full civil war which resulted in the loss of nearly 2 million lives and one of the greatest humanitarian crises of modern history. The fighting continued until a cease-fire was signed in 2005, granting considerable autonomy to southern Sudan and laying out the framework for the current elections and next year’s referendum.
From a health perspective, the cease-fire offered a chance for assessment of the health needs of southern Sudan. What health professionals discovered was chilling. In 2004, there were only three surgeons in three hospitals serving all of the estimated 8-10 million people in southern Sudan, and some areas only had one doctor per 500,000 people. The situation since then has improved, but it still remains dire. NTDs make up a huge part of the health burden; A 2008 survey by the government of Southern Sudan found that nearly all of southern Sudan is endemic with intestinal worms and onchocerciasis, as well as widespread cases of trachoma and lymphatic filariasis. Southern Sudan is also the last remaining area endemic with Guinea worm, and the last remaining target for its eradication.
Treating the NTD burden in southern Sudan is heavily reliant upon maintained peace and stability in the whole nation. A renewal of conflicts will not only disrupt and drive away international aid, but will lead to an explosion of refugees. Previous wars in southern Sudan created an estimated 4 million refugees. Such a spike will lead to a decrease in the sanitary conditions where refugees live, which is a key cause of the spread of NTDs. Refugees also bring any diseases they have with them, and in close and unsanitary conditions, easily spread them further.
The good news is that so far the elections have been mostly successful and overwhelmingly peaceful. In spite of ballot shortages and issues with election rolls, the Sudanese people have been excited to have a say in choosing their leaders. However, this is no guarantee that things will continue to go smoothly. This election was marred by several opposition parties boycotting the election, including the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement, the dominant party in southern Sudan. There’s also the issue of the results. If one side decides it doesn’t support the results of the election, or suspects fraudulence, that could reignite hostilities. And even if this election succeeds, there’s the issue of the referendum next year.
At this point, NTD treatment in Sudan is still in its infancy. Any resumption of hostilities would set treatment back for years, if not decades, and at this point that is a very real possibility. However, Sudan is engaging in peaceful elections for the first time in decades. That’s something that not too long ago seemed impossible. Only the coming days and years will tell, but NTD treatment in Sudan may have a chance to succeed.
- The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases is a major advocacy and resource mobilization initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute dedicated to raising the awareness, political will, and funding necessary to control and eliminate the most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)--a group of disabling, disfiguring, and deadly diseases affecting more than 1.4 billion people worldwide living on less than $1.25 a day.
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