| Guinea worm disease (Dracunculiasis)
Guinea worm disease - also known as dracunculiasis - is on the verge of being eradicated.
Cases of Guinea worm disease are down from 3.5 million in 21 countries in 1986 to a little over 500 in four African countries last year - so, where will we be this year?
Guinea worm is a parasitic disease contracted by drinking contaminated water that contains a flea that is host to the Guinea worm larvae. About one year after a human is infected, an agonizingly painful blister forms and one or more worms begins to emerge. The blister is so painful that people run to cool it off in water and that is when the worm sheds her eggs, thereby starting the cycle all over again.
The worm is about a metre long and can take three to six weeks to emerge. The disease perpetuates a cycle of poverty because, while the worm is emerging, adults often cannot work or tend to their gardens. Sometimes, children are required to leave school to take care of the duties and responsibilities of the infected parent.
Lifelines: The quest for global health is showcasing the numerous preventive innvovations currently used to eradicate Guinea worm disease, like:
• filtering drinking water from ponds to prevent infection
• intense surveillance and control to detect every case before the worm emerges
• treatment of ponds to kill the larvae
• boreholes to widen access to safe drinking water
Can the last pocket of Guinea worm disease be eradicated? The Lifelines series will showcase unsung health heroes who are using local manpower to empower communities to take care of their own health.
| River Blindness (Onchocerciasis)
River Blindness - also known as onchocerciasis - is on the verge of being eliminated.
Further information on River Blindness disease can be found at:
- USAID's NTD Program
- World Health Organization
- The Carter Center
- Give Well
River Blindness is a parasitic disease that is transmitted through the bites of infected black flies that carry immature larval forms of the parasite.
In the human body, the larvae mature into adult worms, which can release up to 1,000 baby worms or microfilariae a day. The microfilariae concentrate in the skin and when they die they cause intense itching and skin changes. If they migrate and die in the eye they can cause the sufferer to become blind.
Many innovative strategies are being used to ‘stomp out’ this disease in the remote areas where the disease occurs. The Lifelines production team are proud to showcase some of the health workers and community volunteers who are tirelessly striving to eliminate this disease.
Leprosy is on the verge of being controlled. In the year 2000 it was reported that the prevalence rate of the disease has dropped by 90 percent - from 21.1 per 10,000 inhabitants to less than 1 per 10,000 inhabitants in 2000. Since then the rate of prevalence continues to drop each year.
Further information on Leprosy can be found at:
- Lepra Society
- World Health Organization
Leprosy is a disease caused by a bacteria that causes damage to the skin and the nervous system. The disease develops slowly and results in skin lesions and deformities. The skin lesions and deformities can be very disfiguring and are the reason that infected individuals historically were considered outcasts in many cultures.
There is a negative stigma around this disease which is due to a lack of understanding, education and political involvement.
The Lifelines production team are documenting leprosy because thousands of volunteers and health educators are working tirelessly to put an end to this cruel disease.
A child dies every 60 seconds from Malaria. Malaria is one of the top three child killers on the planet.
It is caused by a parasite that is transmitted person to person by a particular type of mosquito. The disease infects the human liver as well as the red blood cells.
Malaria is a global emergency that affects mostly poor women and children. Malaria perpetuates a cycle of poverty and costs Africa an estimated $12bn a year in lost productivity.
Despite these grim facts, health innovations are leading to positive change: Malaria deaths in Africa are down by 33 percent in the last six years. These positive results took a huge amount of work and Malaria is a constant battle because the mosquito and parasite seem to manage to outwit science and current prevention strategies.
What will it take for the world to put an end to Malaria – and can it ever be done?
The Lifelines production team are excited to find out who will win in the end – the mosquito or the whole global community pitting themselves against it!
Trachoma is the result of infection of the eye with a bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis that is commonly found in areas where there are water shortages, crowded living conditions and lots of flies.
The infection spreads from person to person and is frequently passed from child to child and from child to mother. It can be passed by sharing face clothes or by flies settling on one person’s eyes and then landing on another person's eyes.
If left untreated, the infection eventually causes the eyelid to turn inwards, which in turn causes the eyelashes to rub on the eyeball, resulting in intense pain and scarring of the front of the eye.
The eyes become so painful that people can’t get on with their daily life – the sufferer cannot be in the sunlight or tolerate smoke, resulting in them being unable to cook or tend to their crops. The condition can ultimately cause a person to become blind, which may mean asking their children to leave school to look after them.
The Lifelines production team has chosen to document trachoma because it is the largest preventable cause of blindness and there are innovative plans in place to see this disease eliminated by 2020.
Polio is on the verge of being wiped off the face of the earth. Polio cases have decreased by over 99 percent since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases a year in more than 125 endemic countries to only 223 reported cases in 2012.
Polio is an extremely infectious disease that is caused by a virus. The virus invades the nervous system and can cause lifelong paralysis. The virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine.
Initial symptoms of the polio virus are: fever, a feeling of tiredness, vomiting, headaches, stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs. Fiver percent to 10% of those paralysed die when their breathing muscles become immobilised.
The Lifelines production team have chosen to document this disease because it is on the verge of being eradicated from the world for good.
| Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia)
Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia, is a disease caused by parasitic worms. More than 200 million people are infected by this parasite worldwide. This disease is second only to malaria as the most devastating parasitic disease.
The parasitic worms are carried by snails that live in dams and rivers and people are infected when they go to the water to wash clothes, bathe or swim. Many people and communities have no other option but to use the contaminated water and are thereby repeatedly infected.
The Lifelines team are documenting an innovative ecological way of reducing a snail population to get rid of schistosomiasis and are excited to share these innovations.
| Elephantiasis (Lymphatic filariasis) and Leprosy
Elephantiasis, also known as lymphatic filariasis, and leprosy are neglected tropical diseases that leave people with horrible permanent physical deformities.
Currently, more than 1.4 billion people in 73 countries are at risk of Elephantiasis.
The global registered prevalence of leprosy at the beginning of 2011 (the most recents statistics available online from the World Health Organisation) stood at 192,246 cases, with 228,474 new cases detected during the year 2010.
The Lifelines team have chosen to document these diseases to showcase what it’s like to live with them and how groups are working to overcome stigma as well as manage the social and physical challenges of these diseases.
Rabies is the most deadly infectious disease on earth. It is passed on to humans through the bite of an infected animal – mostly dogs. If the dog is infected and you do not get treatment in time death is 100 percent certain.
Every year, more than 15 million people worldwide receive vaccines after being bitten to prevent hundreds of thousands of rabies deaths. Still, about 55 000 people die from human dog-mediated rabies each year – that is one every 10 minutes. This is a heartbreaking disease that poses huge health and economic burdens to affected countries.
Elimination of rabies is feasible through dog immunisation campaigns but there is often not enough money or resources to support these campaigns.
The Lifelines production team are documenting rabies because they feel the still present rabies problem simply cannot be ignored.