March 26, 2012, 8:09 am
By The Carter Center
“Foul Water Fiery Serpent,” a documentary feature film that follows dedicated health workers — including Carter Center staff and national health partners, as well as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter — engaged in a final battle to eradicate Guinea worm disease in Africa, will air on American Public Television stations nationwide beginning April 1. Click here for a list of air dates/locations >
For nearly three years, “Foul Water Fiery Serpent” tracked determined teams of men and women as they fought the closing skirmishes to wipe out some of the last Guinea worms in Ghana and Southern Sudan, attacking the parasite where it thrived: in poor, remote villages that rely on contaminated water. Ghana has since stopped transmission of the disease, and the majority of the world’s remaining cases—fewer than 1,100*—are located in South Sudan, Mali, Ethiopia, and an isolated outbreak in Chad.
“And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died…” Numbers 21:4-9.
Parasitologists believe the “fiery serpents” of the Bible might have been Guinea worms. The disease would have been present in the Middle East at the time of the Exodus, as it was until recently. The worms can be the width of a piece of spaghetti and cause excruciating pain when breaking through the skin to release their larvae, so it is easy to understand how they could be called “fiery serpents.”
For thousands of years, the Guinea worm parasite (Dracunculus medinensis) has caused disabling misery, infecting people who drink stagnant water contaminated with the worm’s larvae. After growing inside the human host for a year, the adult female worm, up to 3-feet-long, emerges from the body through a skin blister, causing incapacitating pain and sometimes crippling its victims. There is no cure for Guinea worm disease, and the only treatment is wrapping the worm around a piece of gauze or a stick and painfully pulling it out, inch by inch, every day, for weeks. Learn more about the Carter Center’s Guinea Worm Eradication Program >
When The Carter Center-led initiative began in 1986, there were an estimated 3.5 million cases of the disease in 21 countries in Africa and Asia. Guinea worm disease has been reduced by more than 99.9 percent through the work of The Carter Center and its partners, and is likely to be only the second human disease in history, after smallpox, to be eradicated from the Earth, and the first to be wiped out without a medicine or vaccine.
Narrated by actress Sigourney Weaver, the documentary was produced by Cielo Productions. Visit the website >
*Provisional, Jan-Dec. 2011.
Note: Local airtimes listed. More dates to be added.
Posted in Guinea Worm Disease Eradication