Contributor Post Created with Sketch. A Welcome Extinction


imageAmerica’s 39th president doesn’t not come in for much praise here on Ricochet but the excellent — and nearly complete — work his foundation has been doing to eradicate the guinea worm in Africa deserves some attention. I dare say, the world owes Jimmy Carter a round of applause.

The guinea worm is a nasty piece of work. Like many other parasites, it infects different species at different stages of its lifecycle, culminating in humans in its adult stage. I’ll spare you the details, suffice to say that it emerges from a blister in leg or foot and the only thing to do is to pull the cursed thing — all three feet (~90 cm) of it — out of the skin inch-by-inch, lest it break and become infected inside someone’s leg or foot. Washing the wound in water apparently eases the pain, but is also exactly what the worm wants, as it allows it to release its back eggs into the water supply and start the process over.

Fortunately, the worm has two weaknesses: the copepods it infects immediately before getting into humans are big enough to be caught by inexpensive water filters, and keeping those who are infected away from standing water robs it of an opportunity to find copepods. The results of the Carter Center’s education, filtration, and health programs: last year, there were 126 documented cases, down from 148 in 2013, and 542 in 2012. As recently as the mid 1980s, there were more than three million cases annually. CBC Radio’s Quirks & Quarks covered the matter in detail on their most recent episode.

Though capable of beauty and kindness, Nature is more often ugly and remorseless. Fortunately — with some know-how, determination, and wealth — we’ve on the brink of sending this ugly little creature the way of smallpox. Human ingenuity can’t solve all problems, but it’s amazing what it can do. Congrats to the Carter Center for a job very well done.

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  1. David Williamson Inactive

     “I dare say, the world owes Jimmy Carter a round of applause.” – Yeah, other than that he installed the parasitic regime in Iran, which is taking over the Middle East, with the help of, oh, never mind.

    • #1
    • March 31, 2015, at 9:42 AM PDT
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  2. Tuck Inactive

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: I dare say, the world owes Jimmy Carter a round of applause.

    Here, here. Whatever his other faults (see #1 above) he has done great work in some areas. He deserves full credit for it.

    • #2
    • March 31, 2015, at 9:53 AM PDT
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  3. Adam Koslin Member

    Just goes to show that no one soul is either fully dark or fully light. Kudos to Jimmy Carter, and a heartfelt “hasta la vista” to the guinea worm.

    • #3
    • March 31, 2015, at 10:26 AM PDT
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  4. Eugene Kriegsmann Member

    I am sure that others have thought of this as well, but I will have the bad taste to actually say it: Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

    • #4
    • March 31, 2015, at 1:21 PM PDT
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  5. Johnny Dubya Member

    Do you mean to say that it may truly become extinct (I would be surprised if this were the case) or that prophylactic measures may succeed in reducing infections to nil?

    • #5
    • March 31, 2015, at 1:32 PM PDT
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  6. Herbert E. Meyer Contributor

    Nice going, Tom. One of the things that makes “us” better than “them” is that, from time to time, when one of “them” does good work we’re willing — even delighted — to acknowledge their achievement.

    It’s tempting to repay them in kind — in other words, to never give any one of “them” credit for anything, ever — but I hope we can all avoid that temptation.

    • #6
    • March 31, 2015, at 4:42 PM PDT
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  7. Robert Dammers Thatcher
    Robert DammersJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The species that infects humans has no other host. Once infections have been reduced to nil for an entire year, the species is extinct in that region. Several African nations have already achieved this status. Once all have (and Sudan appears to be the last major challenge), this particular species will, indeed, be extinct.

    Good riddance.

    • #7
    • March 31, 2015, at 4:46 PM PDT
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  8. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    My husband used to work for American Cyanamid, which made a donation of a larvicide called Abate very early in this program. (That portion of Cyanamid is now owned by BASF, which still donates Abate.) He has a now-faded picture of himself shaking hands with President Carter at the “official” donation announcement hanging in his office.

    • #8
    • April 1, 2015, at 5:03 AM PDT
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  9. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Good thing this did not happen in the states. If it did there would be laws to protect the organism from extinction and to increase its population.

    • #9
    • April 1, 2015, at 5:20 AM PDT
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  10. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Johnny Dubya:Do you mean to say that it may truly become extinct (I would be surprised if this were the case) or that prophylactic measures may succeed in reducing infections to nil?

    As Robert said, the latter, though there is apparently some controversy over weather the worm can also infect dogs, or if that’s a closely related worm.

    A lot of parasites are incredibly species-specific.

    • #10
    • April 1, 2015, at 5:50 AM PDT
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