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Killing the Worm

by Austin Merrill

This article was originally published Sept. 1, 2008, in GOOD Magazine, issue 012, pages 106-115.

Disease eradication hasn't had a success since smallpox in 1979. Now, Guinea worm disease-in which a three-foot long worm burrows through its victim's body-is holding out in just a few African countries. The quest to wipe it out is slow and controversial, but the finish line is in sight.

Mariam Inusa sits on a low wooden stool, shivering a bit in the cool morning air. Two men crouch at the young girl's feet, next to a pail of water, and put on latex gloves. Her father stands behind her, ready to grab her arms. Mariam pulls up the printed piece of cloth that is wrapped as a skirt around her waist and legs. Emerging from a small hole in her swollen left knee is a thin white worm, six inches long, caked in blood, and dangling toward the ground.

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Learn more about the Carter Center's Guinea Worm Eradication Program

Read Guinea Worm Wrap-Up (Monthly Newsletter)

Learn about the International Task Force for Disease Eradication


Watch the Video: Killing the Worm

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