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February 18th, 2011
05:33 PM ET

2 more countries eliminate Guinea worm

A debilitating disease that has plagued mankind since ancient times lingers only in three countries now.  If completely eradicated, the Guinea worm disease would become only the second disease wiped out by mankind.

The Guinea worm lives in stagnant water.  When the villagers drink the contaminated water, the worm grows inside its human host for a year until it emerges through the skin, causing great pain.  It is not lethal, but paralyzing for many.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the Carter Center have led public health efforts tackling neglected diseases most Americans have never heard of.  On Thursday, Carter congratulated Niger and Nigeria for becoming the most recent countries to eliminate the Guinea worm.

When a collaborative effort solves a community problem, that success can set the framework for the future, Carter said.

“We underestimate the capability of people to improve their own lives,” he said.

The ways to get rid of Guinea worm are to filter the water or find clean water alternatives.

Guinea worm remains in Mali, Ethiopia and Southern Sudan, which contain 94 percent of the total cases.  In Sudan, a war is waged to eradicate the 'fiery serpent'

Niger had about 33,000 cases in 1991, and now has none.  In 1988, Nigeria had the most case with 650,000 cases.  Twenty years later, Nigeria reported its last case.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.