Watch Out, Guinea Worm, Here Comes Jimmy Carter

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

This past fall, President Jimmy Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, celebrated his 90th birthday. Looking ahead, he’s also hoping to celebrate the global eradication of Guinea worm disease (also known as dracunculiasis).

It’s a goal toward which the nonprofit Carter Center, whose motto is “wage peace, fight disease, build hope,” has been working since 1986. At that time, an estimated 3.5 million people in 20 countries in Asia and Africa suffered from a parasitic infection Carter describes as “horribly painful … caused by drinking contaminated water from rain ponds, which is often the only source of water for a village.” Once ingested, the microscopic larvae begin to grow and within a year develop into stringy three-foot-long worms that slowly and agonizingly emerge from lesions that can appear anywhere in the body.

With the help of the Carter Center, the number of infected people is now down to 126 in four countries. The continuing campaign — one of its major tools is teaching villagers to use simple cloth nets to filter water — is highlighted in the newly opened exhibition at New York’s American Museum of Natural History, “Countdown to Zero: Defeating Disease.”

President Carter, who describes himself and his wife, Rosalynn, as “constant listeners to NPR,” spoke to us after attending the opening of the exhibition, which was developed in collaboration with the Carter Center. An edited version of the interview follows.

Source: NPR (link opens in a new window)

Agriculture, Health Care
infectious diseases