Friday, January 15, 2016

Can polio and Guinea worm both be eliminated in 2016?

Nuru Ziblim, a Guinea worm health volunteer in Ghana, educates children on how to use pipe filters to avoid the parasite when they go to the fields with their families. Credit: The Carter Center
This was originally published on Global Health TV on January 14, 2016.

Only once in history has a human disease has been eliminated from the face of the earth. That was smallpox, eradicated in 1980.

There is a reasonable chance that in 2016 two diseases could be eliminated  polio and guinea worm.

We won’t eradicate either disease this year. Eradication requires that several years pass with no new cases being detected. But it does look like 2016 is the year we could eliminate both diseases.

To be sure, we have been close before with polio, and then lost ground. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that “failure to stop polio in these last remaining areas could result in as many as 200,000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.” So there is little room for error.