Sunday, October 16, 2011

U.K. Pledges £20 Million To Finish Off Guinea Worm

     Twenty-fi ve years after health workers  started a campaign to rid the world of the  guinea worm, cases have been reduced by  over 99%. But the 1800 or so cases that still  occur annually are the hardest to address.  At a press conference on 5 October, U.K.  international development minister Stephen O'Brien announced that the government will  donate about £20 million ($31 million) over  4 years to finish the eradication effort, led by  the Carter Center in Atlanta - provided other  donors come forward with the remaining  £40 million needed for the campaign.
     The guinea worm is spread when people  ingest its larvae through contaminated  drinking water; the larvae incubate inside  the human host and worms up to 1 meter  long emerge painfully through the skin a  year later. Once abundant across Africa and  South Asia, the parasite is now confined to Mali, Ethiopia, Chad, and newly indepen-dent South Sudan, which accounts for 98%  of cases.
     Behavioral changes such as fi ltering  drinking water and discouraging people  with an emerging worm from walking into  ponds and lakes have reduced cases from  3.5 million in 1986 to 1797 in 2010. The  Carter Center's current goal is worldwide  eradication - defined as three consecutive  years of no reported cases - by 2015.



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