“We are truly in the midst of that last mile and experiencing firsthand that it is going to be a very long and arduous last mile,” Adam Weiss, director of The Carter Center’s Guinea Worm Eradication Program, told The Associated Press. “Not so much as it taking more than the next seven years – five to seven years – but just knowing that it’s going to be a slow roll to get to zero.”
Guinea worm affects some of the world’s more vulnerable people and can be prevented by training people to filter and drink clean water.
People who drink unclean water can ingest parasites that can grow as long as 3 feet (1 meter). The worm incubates in people for up to a year before painfully emerging, often through the feet or other sensitive parts of the body.
Weiss said the populations where Guinea worm still exists are prone to local insecurity, including conflict, which can prevent staff and volunteers from going house to house to implement interventions or offer support.
“If we take our foot off of the gas in terms of trying to accelerate getting to zero and providing support to those communities, there’s no question that you’re going to see a surge in Guinea worm,” Weiss said. “We’re continuing to make progress, even if it is not as fast as we all want it to be, but that progress continues.”
Guinea worm is poised to be the second human disease to be eradicated after smallpox, according to The Carter Center.
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