Only 148 cases of Guinea worm disease were found in the world in 2013, a 73 percent drop from the 542 cases found one year earlier, the Carter Center announced Thursday.
Along with polio, Guinea worm is one of two diseases hovering on the brink of extinction, with fewer than 1,000 cases annually worldwide. When the Carter Center began its campaign in 1986, there were an estimated 3.5 million annual Guinea worm infections across Africa and Asia.
Guinea worms appear in rural villages where the microscopic parasite is picked up from shallow drinking water ponds. After about a year, the parasite is nearly a yard long and emerges through the skin inch by inch for days or weeks, causing excruciating pain. While it is not normally fatal unless the wound becomes badly infected, many victims cannot walk, farm or go to school.
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