If that question seems silly, let me rephrase it- are you afraid of parasites tunneling through your body, creating painful blisters that can last years? What about a worm that is living in your leg, that you have to pull out slowly, centimeter-by-centimeter, over a period of weeks?
Yeah. That’s what the Guinea Worm does- it’s something to be afraid of (incidentally, it’s scientific name Dracunculiasis roughly translates to burning/fiery dragon- because despite their size, these things hurt). Now for the good news: these horrifying parasites have nearly been eradicated ALL. OVER. THE. WORLD.
Do you know the only other disease to be fully eradicated? Smallpox. It was a long time ago. To completely eradicate something is no small task, and there is a reason why it doesn’t happen very often (well, at least, not on purpose or to the correct life-forms).
But here we are, October 2023, and we may be looking at a future free of Guinea Worm Disease. (Although, we aren’t quite there yet- continued vigilance is required). This phenomenal accomplishment has happened largely due to the efforts and persistence of our former President, Jimmy Carter. President Carter took on the audacious project to eliminate GWD in the 1980s. Most of us are familiar with his philanthropic efforts through habitat for humanity, but apparently he does more to help others than “just” building houses. President Carter once said he wanted to outlive the Guinea worm- something that at one point in time would have been about as likely as any of our recent Presidents taking a trip to Mars.
We probably won’t be seeing any former presidents on Mars, but we can hope that President Carter can take some satisfaction in the amazing work The Carter Center has done to eliminate this specific misery from the world. President Carter is currently receiving hospice care at home, hopefully content with the knowledge that it is possible that he will outlive the last Guinea Worm after all.