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Published On: Mon, Mar 17th, 2014

Nigeria’s great achievement: Guinea-worm free

The World Health Organization (WHO) presented certificates  to five African countries today indicating their new guinea-worm free status–Somalia, Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa, Niger and Nigeria. Congratulations to all.

I would like to focus on the great achievement of Nigeria.

In 1986, the disease afflicted an estimated 3.5 million people a year in 21 countries in Africa and Asia. Nigeria was the most badly affected by the parasitic disease, as the Carter Center notes:

Since 1988, the Carter Center’s Guinea Worm Eradication Program has worked with the Nigeria Ministry of Health to eliminate Guinea worm disease. At the beginning of the campaign, Nigeria was the most endemic country, reporting over 650,000 cases in all 36 states in its first nationwide survey for the disease. Known locally as the “impoverisher,” Guinea worm disease outbreaks in southeastern Nigeria, alone, cost rice farmers an estimated US $20 annually in the late 1980s. However, through persistence, leadership from individuals like General Gowon, and Nigeria’s contribution of US $2 million of its own funding to The Carter Center for the campaign, Nigeria reported its last case in a 58-year-old woman in southeastern Nigeria in November 2008.

Just an immense achievement and hats off to the great work of all involved.

Guinea worm Image/Video Screen Shot

Guinea worm
Image/Video Screen Shot

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, while receiving notification of the certificate, offered hope in the battle against other infectious diseases in Nigeria,  “We are pleased today to receive from the Director General, Dr. Margaret Chan, the certificate from the WHO indicating that Nigeria is now a guinea worm-free country.

“Just as we have fought guinea worm and succeeded,  so are we committed in our fight against many endemic diseases such as HIV AIDs, Malaria, Tuberculosis and of course polio. I am pleased that we are making appreciable progress on all these fronts on which considerable investment in terms of resources have been made”.

From that 3.5 million cases in 1986, provisional numbers for 2013 reveal a mere 148 cases in four countries in 2013, a 99.9 percent decrease!

South Sudan reported 113 cases, accounting for 76 percent of the remaining. The others include Chad (14), Mali (11), and Ethiopia (7).

LISTEN: Interview with Dr. Donald Hopkins, Vice-President of Health Programs at the Carter Center

According to the Carter Center, Guinea worm disease (dracunculiasis) is a parasitic infection caused by the nematode roundworm parasite Dracunculus medenisis. It is contracted when people consume water from stagnant sources contaminated with Guinea worm larvae. Inside a human’s abdomen, Guinea worm larvae mate and female worms mature and grow. After about a year of incubation, the female Guinea worm, 1 meter long, creates an agonizingly painful lesion on the skin and slowly emerges from the body. Guinea worm sufferers may try to seek relief from the burning sensation caused by the emerging worm and immerse their limbs in water sources, but this contact with water stimulates the emerging worm to release its larvae into the water and begin the cycle of infection all over again.

Guinea worm is a particularly devastating disease that incapacitates people for extended periods of time, making them unable to care for themselves, work, grow food for their families, or attend school.

The eradication of guinea worm disease is just around the corner and will make it the 2nd human disease eradicated from the globe alongside smallpox.

For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page and the Outbreak News This Week Radio Show page.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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