National Public Radio had a good story yesterday on Why The World Isn't Close To Eradicating Guinea Worm.
Reporter Michaleen Doucleff notes that in in the early 1980s, there were 3.2 million cases of Guinea worm — a two-feet long worm that emerges slowly — and excruciatingly — from a blister on the skin, but that last year, after a massive Guidena Worm eradication campaign led by President Jimmy Carter, only seven cases were reported.
Clearly, massive progress, but also a small problem that has cropped up: it seems dogs can serve as a vector-host for the worms. It seems that in Chad, several hundred dogs have shown up with the worms in their legs -- a phenomenon not observed before. Where and how are the worms getting into the dogs? One thought was fish guts, another from frogs, but either way it's a problem as the dogs of Chad are largely village dogs that roam freely without collar, fence, chain, or leash. It looks like in order to eradicate Guinea worm, we are also going to have to eradicate Guinean Worm in dogs.
One obvious solution that is "off the table" for now, according to Mark Eberhard, a scientist at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is simply to get rid of all the village dogs. Eberhard says a cull of that size "would be the largest culling project for dogs ever."
But, of course, that's simply not true, is it? The United States kills two or three times that many healthy dogs every weeks, and no one bats an eye. Here's an instance where killing dogs just once could wipe out a scourge disease forever, and yet folks are hesitating. Odd behavior on both ends of the decision tree, if you ask me.