VOICE OF AMERICA
Human Guinea worm cases in six African countries dropped to 27 in 2020, about 50% less than what was recorded the year before, despite COVID-19 challenges.
Animal cases fell by 20% over the same period. The figures were announced by the Carter Center, which has played a major role in pushing the disease to the brink of extinction. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter founded the center in 1982 to focus on neglected tropical diseases in humans and animals.
The disease is spread when hosts, including humans and dogs, ingest the worm eggs in unfiltered drinking water. The egg hatches into a worm, which grows and spreads down the body, emerging in the host’s foot or leg.
In Chad, cases dropped to 36 from the 48 recorded in 2019 — the most significant decline for a single nation. This is down from an estimated 3.5 million cases in 1986.
The Central African country’s significant decline in cases was attributed to “recommitted country and community efforts, innovation, and aggressive, science-based interventions,” said Dr. Kashef Ijaz, Carter Center vice president of health programs.
Ethiopia recorded 11 cases, while Angola, Cameroon, Mali and South Sudan recorded one case each. The reduction in cases comes as COVID-19 overwhelmed public health systems worldwide.
“In contrast, the Guinea Worm Eradication Program is not dependent on the delivery of pharmaceuticals because there is no vaccine or medicine to treat the disease,” said a Carter Center news release, which also credited a community-centered approach to dealing with the disease.
Out of the program’s 1,026 employees, 1,000 are Chadian. The program also enjoys the services of nearly the same number of volunteers in the villages.
Guinea worm disease disables victims. In animals, dogs are the most affected, with more than 1,500 recorded cases in Chad, Ethiopia and Mali, followed by domestic and wild cats, as well as baboons, according to 2020 figures.