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By Nancy Novick

Jimmy Carter may have left the White House in 1981, but his presence on the world stage in the spheres of human rights and health care has remained considerable. Today President Carter used his influence to call attention to the near-eradication of guinea worm disease, a painful condition caused by a water-borne parasite, at a press conference at the American Museum of Natural History.

In 1986, an estimated 3.5 million people in Africa and Asia were estimated to be infected with guinea worm disease. Now, President Carter announced, only 126 people worldwide have the condition. Once those last cases are treated, if further transmission can be prevented, guinea worm disease will be only the second disease—after smallpox—to be eradicated worldwide. President Carter made this announcement in advance of Tuesday’s opening of Countdown to Zero: Defeating Disease at the museum, an exhibit that explores the progress made—and challenges remaining—in the fight against a number of parasitic and infectious diseases including polio, river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, and malaria. In the case of guinea worm disease, visitors learn that a contaminated water supply constitutes the biggest factor in the spread of the disease. By introducing ways of filtering the water, as well as more rapid treatment and isolation of those affected by the disease, health care workers have been able to effect dramatic change.

Joining President Carter at the press conference and a brief discussion that followed, were Mark Siddall, Curator of Countdown to Zero and of the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology; John Flynn, Dean of the Richard Gilder Graduate School; and Donald Hopkins, MD, Carter Center vice president for health programs. Dr. Hopkins briefly described the role of the Carter Center in helping to reduce the numbers of guinea worm disease worldwide and explained the difference between eradication of a disease, in which immunization becomes unnecessary since the disease is no longer transmitted; elimination, in which transmission is stopped in a specific area; and control, in which the prevalence or incidence of the disease is lower than a previous baseline measurement.

Countdown to Zero: Defeating Disease, will be on view through July 12, 2015. More information on the exhibit can be found here.

Nancy Novick blogs about the written and spoken word on the Upper West Side at

NEWS | 4 comments | permalink
    1. naro says:

      Jimme is an anti semitic piece of garbage. do not offend your readers with his photo which is a disgusting.

    2. Steve B says:

      Shoulda invited Bill Gates

    3. DMH says:

      Wow – tough crowd! Pretty harsh words for a guy who won the Nobel Peace Prize and now speaking out for fairly unglamorous world health causes. I was too young to ever vote for him but I’ve always been a fan.

    4. Erica says:

      what did he do that was anti-Semitic? I had not heard of that.