• Learning Something Unexpected: 1p36 Deletion Syndrome

    When I went to Snowbird I expected to learn about the wildflowers and animals in that area. Indeed I did. The pot gut squirrel (Uinta ground squrirel) and moose are two of the furry species there. The wildflowers were amazing. I hiked through fields and fields of color—Indian paintbrush, lupines,primrose, moutain bluebells, gentian, and many, many more whose names I don’t know. What I didn’t expect was to learn about a rare disease—one that was identified in 1981—1p36 deletion syndrome. 

    Ski Resorts like Snowbird keep themselves busy in the summer by hosting conferences. It’s easy to spot attendees associated with each sort of conference, as attendees have their own “look.”  The Ichtyologist and Herpetologist  Conference had an almost equal mix of male and female attendees. They travelled in groups of 3 to 5, had animated conversations, and could be heard talking about fish and snakes. They sat on the comfy couches in the lounge and ate together in the restaurant. The attendess for another conference, whose name I didn’t catch, had primarily male attendess, dressed in collared shirts, and hung out lined up at the bar as they waited for a conference-related party to begin. I heard one of them complaining that the party was starting at 6:00 PM, far too early for a party in his opinion.

    One day I saw a lot of women with kids, and at least one of the kids in each group “looked different” and behaved a bit differently from what you’d expect. How different? Just enough to conclude that these women and their children must be here for a purpose. While in the lounge one night, one of the women struck up a converstaion and said she was there for a conference on 1p36 deletion syndrome.  She said that although there were technical presentations that most families were there to network with other families and provide each other with moral support.  There were some Dad’s there too, but one night all the women went out together and ended up in the lounge with a drink. They looked happy, the conversation was animated, and I got the sense that they were getting a well deserved night out without their children.  

    So what is it?  Deletion syndrome happens with a bit of DNA is missing from from chromosome 1, location p36. First noticed in 1981, it wasn’t until 1997 that the symptoms were established. Scientists haven’t gathered enough data to predict life expectancy, but it is clear that every individual is individual in the symptoms they get and in the severity of those symptoms. It depends on how much DNA material is missing. There is no cure, just strategies for managing symptoms. 

    The symptoms can be changes in facial structure, learning disabilities, problems communicating, heart, eye, muscle, and breathing issues. For more specifics see the

    On another night, we ran into the woman who spoke to us earlier. She was impressed that we took the time to find out (on the web) more about 1p36 deletion syndrome. She was so delighted that she brought over another Mom to meet us. She said,  “These people actually found out what deletion syndrome is.” It lifted their spirits to see that others cared. 

  • Human Waste: A Weapon of Mass Destruction

    What does 2.5 billion mean? If you think dollars in your pocket, 2.5 billion pretty much means you are set for life. In 2007, 2.5 billion described the number of iTunes music sales as well as the number of mobile phones in use. But 2.5 billion also describes the number of people who wake up each day with nowhere to go to defecate. So what do those people do? Defecate in the street. And that spreads disease.

    "It is scandalous that in 2009 [the diarrhea death toll] is like four jumbo jets of children crashing every day. Human waste is a fabulous weapon of mass destruction."

    Rose George, author of The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why it Matters

  • Yaws, It's Not a Typo

    You might be thinking I mean Yawn or Jaws, but I really mean Yaws. It's a disease that children in tropical areas can get. Caused by a bacteria, yaws starts out with a sore where the bacterial infection started. Children get lesions and develop inflamed bones and fingers. If not treated, the child's skin and bones can be destroyed and disfigured.

    The good news is that yaws can be cured by penicillin if you treat it early. One shot would have prevented the man in this picture from a life of disfigurement. Can you imagine? The fact is that poor people in developing countries often can't get the treatment. They simply don't have access to health care.

    Why do children in the tropics get this disease in the first place? Overcrowding, poor personal hygiene, and poor sanitation.  Without adequate access to water, it's difficult to have good personal hygiene and sanitation.

    You have the power to help stop yaws and other diseases related to lack of water and sanitation.

  • Cholera: If it's preventable, why are people dying from it?

    "Cholera is a waterborne disease resulting from inadequate access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Despite efforts to keep its spread under control, cholera remains a serious disease in many parts of the world." Center for Disease Control.

    Dr. Eric Mintz says:

    "Inexcusably, the completely preventable ancient scourge of cholera rages among poverty-stricken and displaced people today, with as many as one in five persons with severe illness dying for lack of safe drinking water and sanitation and a simple therapy consisting of salt, sugar, and water. Cholera, a dreaded waterborne disease of centuries past, remains a troubling barometer — and often a fatal consequence — of inadequate access to safe drinking water and sanitation." Lion in Our Village - The Unconscionable Tragedy of Cholera in Africa

    That's right, over a century and a half ago, a physician in London discovered water transmitted cholera. In the late 1800's a Bristish civil engineer figured out a way to engineer the water system to prevent cholera. So why are we still living with the disease? It's very inexpensive to prevent. A small donation to the Blue Planet Run Foundation or Water for People will help alleviate the suffering you see in the photo. That image (credit to shows two very ill children from a cholera outbreak in India.

  • The Lethal Quench

    People in Bangladesh were plagued by waterborne diseases until several groups came to their aid by drilling groundwater wells. Although cholera and other diseases diminished, other problems started within a few years. People complained of patchy skin, stomach pains, gangrene, and the incidence of cancer increased. What was happening? Arsenicosis. Here is an advanced case of arsenic poisoning, China. (Photo courtesy of USGS.)

    Bangladesh and a number of other Asian countries have naturally occurring arsenic in their groundwater. A recent field study ("Scientists solve puzzle of arsenic-poisoning crisis in Asia") investigated why. Bacteria turns out to be a culprit. When robbed of oxygen, these bacteria "breathe" using rust, arsenic, and other chemicals. The process of using the arsenic converts the arsenic into a form that dissolves easily in water.

    "Every day, more than 140 million people in southern Asia drink groundwater contaminated with arsenic. Thousands of people in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Myanmar and Vietnam die of cancer each year from chronic exposure to arsenic, according to the World Health Organization."

  • Diarrhea: The Unfashionable Disease

    Ever hear about the World Concert for Diarrhea? Or the Celebrity Chefs Fundraiser for Diarrhea? Diarrhea just isn't a disease that gets rallied for. It's hard to understand that diarrhea can kill you. In the USA, it is an inconvenience. In developing countries, it is a killer. Why?

    There are more than 100 microbugs that can cause diarrhea. A child who lives in village that has a bad water supply, limited water for hand washing, and no toilets, is likely to pick up one or more of these bugs at any time. These children can get one case of diarrhea after another.

    The intestines are smart. They detect a bug, they flush out the system. This smartness, however, deprives a person of fluids and nutrients. You can't go on very long without fluids and nutrients. That's why chronic diarrhea is a killer. It is one of the TOP THREE killers of children. Pneumonia and malaria are the other two.

    Recipe for curing diarrhea:

    A large pinch of salt, a fistful of sugar, and a jug of clean water.

    Sounds simple. I bet you have all those items readily available at home. People in developing countries don't. So simple, yet for lack of these three items, children are dying everyday from diarrhea.

    Want to read more? See A Simple Solution by Andrea Gerlin.

    Want to help? Donate to Blue Planet Run Foundation.

  • Leptospirosis

    Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that you can catch after being exposed to water contaminated with the urine of infected animals. If you wash laundry or bathe in infected water, you are risking infection. If you don't wear shoes around water in tropical areas, you are at risk. As you might imagine, people who don't have running water or a safe source of water for drinking and washing are at a big risk of getting leptospirosis.

    What does it do to you? High fever, headache, chills, red eyes, abdominal pain, jaundice, skin hemorrhages, bleeding of the lungs, vomiting, diarrhea, and rash.

    Researchers at Cornell are hoping to develop a vaccine. Read about how they identified a key protein in the leptospirosis bacterium.

  • A Hundred Years Ago and Some Things Aren't Better

    A few days ago I received email about what it was like 100 years ago. Meant to be amusing, it listed many facts that were true in 1909 but are absurd to most US citizens today. See 100 Years Ago in America. The fact list starts out by saying ... "This will boggle your mine, I know it did mine..."

    After I read the email, I wrote the following back to the person who sent it to me:

    "What boggles my mind is that in the year 2009:

    1 billion people wordwide (1 in 6) do not have access to clean water.
    1.8 million children die every year from waterborne diseases, including diarrhea.
    40 billion hours are spent each year in Africa to fetch and haul water
    The top THREE leading killers of children are penumonia, diarrhea, and malaria

    How can we let this go on?"

    Diarrhea was listed as one of the leading causes of death in 1909. Many people find that absurd, but is it still true today. 

    It is amazing that while we are doing extremely well in the USA there are people around the world struggling as much or more than those in 1909.

  • Wage Peace: The Carter Center

    The Carter Center is an organization that works tirelessly to change the world. Started by President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, its mission is to advance "human rights and alleviating unnecessary human suffering" and to create "a world in which every man, woman, and child has the opportunity to enjoy good health and live in peace."

    "We believe good health is a basic human right, especially among poor people afflicted with disease who are isolated, forgotten, ignored, and often without hope."  Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (and Nobel Peace Prize winner)

    The Carter Center has an extensive set of health programs. It is because of this organization that guinea worm disease is decreasing and will be eradicated. But they do so much more.

    • They work to eradicate river blindness, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, and malaria.
    • They sponsor public health training in Ehiopia
    • In the US, they are leaders in mental health awareness
    • The Agricultural program helps farmers in Africa to increase crop production.

    Visit the Carter Center site to find out more about them and volunteer opportunities.

  • Blinding Trachoma: Eliminated by 2020?

    Water shortage doesn't cause trachoma, but it, along with flies, poor hygiene, and crowded living, create the conditions that promote this debilitating disease. WHO defines the disease:

    "Trachoma is one of the oldest infectious diseases known to mankind. It is caused by Chlamydia trachomatis – a microorganism which spreads through contact with eye discharge from the infected person (on towels, handkerchiefs, fingers, etc.) and through transmission by eye-seeking flies. After years of repeated infection, the inside of the eyelid may be scarred so severely that the eyelid turns inward and the lashes rub on the eyeball, scarring the cornea (the front of the eye). If untreated, this condition leads to the formation of irreversible corneal opacities and blindness."

    This photo (Photo courtesy of WHO. ) shows the corneal opacity caused by blinding trachoma.

    Trachoma affects 80 million people who live in the poorest and most remote rural areas of 56 countries in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Australia and the Middle East. WHO's "SAFE" strategy for eliminating the disease by 2020 consists of eye lid Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness, and changing the Environment.

  • Nematodes: The Thread-like Ones

    More 15,000 species of nematodes are parasitic. Nematoda, from Ancient Greek, means "thread-like ones." I suppose a small, thin worm is like a thread. Unfortunately, the human parasitic species -- like ascarsis shown in the photo -- is not as innocuous as a thread. Intestinal nematode infections account for almost half of the malnutrition in the world. (Photo courtesy of the Orange County Public Health Laboratory, Santa Ana, CA.)

    Adult female worms can grow to be almost a foot in length. Imagine a bundle of these things in your intestines eating the nourishment you supply. They are going to grow, and you won't. It's rare that you would ever get this disease in the USA. But children in tropical an subtropical areas are at great risk if they drink unclean water, have inadequate sanitation, or poor hygiene.

    Over a billion people are walking around with these worms. You can make a difference by donating to Blue Planet Run Foundation. Clean water is needed for good hygience.

  • War + Unclean Water = Cholera

    Cholera is a well understood disease that can be prevented and treated. But the combination of war and lack of access to clean water stack the odds against anyone who gets sick from it. Watch this video to get a first-hand look at the problem people face in Afghanistan.

  • Stay Clear of Cyanobacterial Shakes!

    This glass is filled with a type of cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) that secrete toxins into water. This stuff can make you—and any animals that drink the water—very sick. It causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, eye irritation, earaches, sore throats, and more. Prolonged exposure can cause liver cancer. (Photo courtesy of Citizendium.)

    If you live in the USA, it's pretty easy to avoid cyanobacteria. Don't swim in, or drink, water that has algae blooming in it. People in a developing country might not be able to avoid contact with blue-green algae. Not everyone is as lucky to have fresh water taps in their homes as we are in the USA.

    See WHO if you want more information on cyanobacteria.

  • A Recently Developed Cholera Vaccine

    Dukoral is a newly developed vaccine for cholera. Will those who need it be able to get the vaccine? Cost and logistics pose obstacles. The vaccine won't address the underlying cause of the lack of access to clean water and basic sanitation.

    Cholera is a disease you get from contaminated water and food. Although it is practically gone in the USA, it is prevalent in developing countries. It's treatable, but people can't get the treatment for many reasons.

  • What's it like to be a 10 year old in Bangladesh?

    Ten year old Yasmin Akhtar takes part in this hygiene education lesson in Bhaterkhil, Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of WaterAid /Jim Holmes.)

    In this lesson children play a game where blue powder is sprinkled on to a football. The children then pass the football to one another and the blue powder is spread from child to child. This game shows how diseases and germs can be easily passed form one person to another.

    Games like these are just one of the many ways that WaterAid teaches children about safe hygiene practises. Other methods include puppet shows, plays, picture cards and books.

  • Rotavirus: Not Just for Cruise Ships

    You may have heard of diarrhea outbreaks on cruise ships that cut short the cruise. Rotavirus is usually the culprit. It causes severe diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. Cruise travelers are certainly inconvenienced and end up having a nightmare instead of the dream vacation they planned on.

    Rotoavirus is not just for cruise ships. It is responsible for killing more than 500,000 children each year, 80% of whom live in developing countries.

    The only treatment consists of preventing dehydration by providing fluids and salts until the disease runs its course. In the most serious cases, frequent vomiting makes oral rehydration ineffective. Children who cannot keep down fluids urgently need intravenous fluids, or they risk dying from dehydration. In many poor, developing countries, it's difficult to find the clean water needed to make the rehydration solution.

    The other option to rehydration is to prevent the disease in the first place. The World Health Organization says that every child should be vaccinated against diarrheal disease. The cost ($20 per person) and the fact the vaccine must be kept refrigerated are barriers to preventing this deadly disease.

    For more information, see the Rotavirus Vaccine Program.

  • Break the Silence: Get the Word Out About Chagas

    Chagas (pronounced SHA-gus) is a disease caused by a parasite. You get it by being bitten by an insect. Most people who get is live in poor areas in Mexico, Central America, and South America. More and more the disease is finding its way into the United States. If left untreated, the long term effect include an enlarged colon.

    "100 years after the discovery of the disease, few of the millions of patients needing treatment for Chagas are ever diagnosed or receive treatment. When they do, they are treated with drugs that are known to be toxic. In addition, no pediatric formulation is currently available, even though the acute form of the disease primarily afflicts children."


    Chagas is a disease that many people don't know they have. When you first get it, the symptoms are like other ailments and are mistaken for flu or something else:

    Fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting.

    But there is also a tell-tale insect bite somewhere. Sometimes a person's eyelid on one side of the face is swollen. Often the bite and the eyelid swelling gets overlooked.

    If you don't catch the Chagas at its start, it becomes chronic. Years later, you can develop and enlarged heart, heart failure, enlarged esophagus, enlarged colon, or other heart or digestion problem.

    Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF) is running a campaign to make the public aware.

    Now you know about it. Let someone else know.

    CDC Fact Sheet on Chagas

  • Cholera: The Quick Change Artist

    One way for criminals to evade capture is to change clothes and take on a new identity. Scientists recently discovered that the cholera bug is doing just that. it's constantly exchanging and mixing genes to avoid "capture." The bacteria Vibrio cholerae. Looks pretty, but it can be deadly.

    Find out more about cholera's quick change tactics: Cholera's survival tactics revealed.

    Find out more about this deadly waterborne disease:
    Cholera: If it’s preventable, why are people dying from it?

    Kirstyn E's Weblog has a wonderful article on the pathology and treatment of this killer.
    If You’ve Never Heard of Cholera, Be Thankful that you have Clean Water

  • Bill Gates Discusses Global Issues

    Bill Gates talked at the TED Conference 2009 on mosquitos, malaria, and education. Watch it to find out about childhood death rates, vaccines, malaria, and more. To the surprise of the audience, he releases some mosquitos during the portion of his talk on malaria!

  • Guinea Worm: Countdown to Zero

    After 22 years of fighting this horrible water-related disease, the Carter Center is within reach of eradicating it. This could be the second disease in human history to be wiped off the face of the earth.

    From the Carter Center website:

    How Guinea Worm is Contracted

    Guinea worm disease is contracted when a person drinks stagnant water that is contaminated with microscopic water fleas carrying infective larvae. Inside a person's body, the larvae grow for a year, becoming thin thread-like worms, up to 3-feet-long. These worms create agonizingly painful blisters in the skin, through which they slowly exit the body. People with emerging worms must not bathe or step in sources of drinking water, because a worm will release hundreds of thousands of eggs, or larvae, into the water. Water fleas then eat the larvae, and people who drink unfiltered water from the pond become infected—continuing the life cycle of the parasite.

  • Bioprospecting

    Gamboa is on the east bank of the Panama Canal and north of the Chagres River. It's also next to Soberania National Park, a tropical forest. The Panama International Cooperative Biodiversity Group combs the park looking for plants, algae, and invertebrate marine life that might have healing properties for tropical diseases. This practice is referred to as bioprospecting. Besides the obvious benefits to finding treatments for such diseases as dengue fever, Chagas disease, and malaria, bioprospecting also helps conserve the environment that medicinal plants grow in.

    Bioprospecting is not without controversy. Some claim that bioprospecting is biopiracy. "The word 'biopiracy' was coined by the North American advocacy group, Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group) — formerly known as Rural Advancement Foundation International — to refer to the uncompensated commercial use of biological resources or associated TK from developing countries, as well as the patenting by corporations of claimed inventions based on such resources or knowledge."

    Find out more about the controversy. Read Bioprospecting: legitimate research or 'biopiracy'?

  • No Cure for Yellow Fever

    As I flew home from Panama yesterday, with my yellow fever immunization document tucked away with my travel documents, I was confident that I was going home disease free. Even without the immunization, I really don't need to worry because yellow fever was virtually wiped out of the canal zone in Panama early the 20th century. But it used to be one of the top killers in that area. Many workers lost their lives to yellow fever while building the Panama canal.

    Today there are 44 countries where you can find pockets of yellow fever. More than 200,000 people still catch the disease today; 30,000 of them die from it. It's pretty nasty.

    Mosquitos transmit this viral disease. The first symptoms are fever, pain, extreme shivers, headache, and nausea. If those pass, you might be one of the lucky survivors, but you might be one of the 15% for whom fever returns, whose skin turn yellow, who bleed from the mouth, noses eyes or stomach, and whose kidneys stop working properly. If you are one of the unlucky ones, you are likely to die from the disease.

    The yellow fever virus (arbovirus of flavivirus genus) infects monkeys as well as humans. Mosquitos can pick up the virus from a monkey and transmit it to other monkeys as well as to humans. There are lots of New World monkeys in Panama. Fortunately all the ones I saw during my trip looked pretty healthy!

    Find out more from the World Health Organization.

  • Malaria: Should it be controlled or eradicated?

    This article is from SciDev Net. What do you think?

    "Some scientists worry that renewed enthusiasm for malaria eradication could distract from vital control efforts, says Priya Shetty.

    Lately, malaria scientists have once again begun talking about eradication. It is not a word they use lightly. The last attempt, in the 1950s, failed miserably. Millions of people died because, far from disappearing, the disease came back stronger than ever.

    Since then, the global health community has focused on reducing the number of cases and severity of the disease and lowering death tolls.

    But ridding the world of this disease, which kills more than a million people every year, was a hot topic at the fifth Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) meeting earlier this month (November) in Nairobi, Kenya.

    Several high-profile international groups, most notably the Gates Foundation, are pushing elimination and eradication. At first glance, these are unquestionably positive goals.

    Yet some researchers fear that health infrastructure in regions like Africa is ill-equipped to roll out eradication tools, and are nervous that the shift will divert funds from much-neededbasic control measures

    Read the rest of the article . . .

  • Cholera outbreaks depend on river flow, say scientists

    This article is frome SciDev Net:

    "The severity of cholera outbreaks can be linked to the rate at which rivers flow, scientists have found.

    Cholera, caused by the aquatic bug Vibrio cholerae, spreads through contaminated food and water.

    It has re-emerged as a major killer in recent decades, with the number of cases up ten per cent between 2007 and 2008, at 200,000, and the number of deaths up by more than a quarter at 5,000.

    The team, from Tufts University, United States, analysed Bangladesh's two seasonal cholera outbreaks — one around March and a second in September–October — using cholera data from the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research (ICDDR,B) between 1980 and 2000, and water records from the country's hydrology department.

    They found a link between the severity of the two outbreaks and the volume of water flowing in the deltas of Bangladesh's three major rivers: the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna.

    The March outbreak coincides with low water levels in the rivers. The lower the water level, the more seawater seeps in from the Bay of Bengal, carrying the microscopic plants and animals that harbour Vibrio cholerae, spreading infection, they suggest.

    Severe October outbreaks are linked to high flood years, when faecal contamination in the rivers enters drinking-water sources.

    The team says its findings can be used to develop an early warning system for cholera.

    Shafiqul Islam, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the university and lead author, says it is unlikely that cholera will ever be eradicated because the germs thrive in sea water — where they cannot be controlled — and newer types continually emerge.

    "We need a cholera warning system to control outbreaks and minimise their impact by prior planning and implementing effective interventions," he told SciDev.Net.

    Environmental indicators provide advanced warning and can be applied to any region, he says.

    Recent research by the ICDDR,B has also linked cholera outbreaks in Bangladesh to hours of sunshine and temperature in spring and autumn.

    Increases in sea surface temperature and river height also influence outbreaks in Vietnam, says Mohammad Yunus, senior scientist at the ICDDR,B's public health sciences division.

    Yunus points out such insights will be meaningful only if scientists monitoring environmental indicators inform public health scientists dealing with outbreaks on the ground.

    Some cholera outbreaks have more to do with public health infrastructure breakdown, he adds — as in Zimbabwe, where the ICDDR,B scientists are helping build local capacity in clinical examination and detection.

    Even in coastal countries such as Nigeria, where outbreaks can be linked with climate and water variables, collecting environmental data well in advance will be a challenge, he says.

    The research was published last month (October) in Geophysical Research Letters."

  • Holiday Gift Idea: Put Some Meat on This Boy's Arms

    Are you one of those people who enjoys giving gifts of food to family and friends for Christmas? Gourmet cheese packs, fresh fruit, organic wine, specialty chocolates, antelope salami, buffalo steaks, and the like? Before you order that yummy gift, consider the girth of your gift recipient's arm. 

    MUAC looks sort of like a tape measure. But is it a tool used to judge whether a child is suffering from malnutrition. You wrap it around the upper arm. If the child's arm is in the green range, they are normal. Yellow is at risk. Orange means moderate malnutrition. Red means severe malnutrition. The little boy in the photo has severe malnutrition. (Photo courtey of Doctors Without Borders.)

    In addition to that gift of food you plan to send your friend or family, consider also donating to help put meat the the arms of children with malnutrition. You can donate a gift in the name of your friend or relative. I bet that will impress your gift recipient even more than the gourmet food item.

    Doctors Without Borders is one of the front-line nonprofits that works with malnourished children. Visit their site and donate now.

    The MUAC tool used to diagnose malnutrition.

  • Give the Gift of Making History

    Guinea worm is a parasitic disease contracted by drinking water contaminated with larvae. Inside the human body, the larvae mature into long, spaghetti-like worms that eventually exit the body through painful blisters in the skin. The crippling pain leaves victims unable to work or attend school, sometimes for months, until the worms completely emerge from the body. (Photo by Louise Gubb of the Carter Center.)

    History buffs on your holiday gift list will be flattered when you donate in their name to help the Carter Foundation make history by eradicating the Guinea Worm.

    The foundation is very close to eliminating this alien monstrosity. There are only 6 countries left with the disease, reporting 4,600 cases. That's down from 3.5 million cases in 1986. Help them finish up quickly.

    Eradication requires two things:

    1. Getting people to drink filtered water so they don't get the parasite to begin with.
    2. Containing the infected person during the time the worm crawls through their skin.

    Having a worm crawl through your skin is excruciating.

    If you are not convinced this gift is worthwhile, read Sadia's Story, provided by the Carter Foundation:

    Triumph Over Guinea Worm (2008)

    In 2007, Sadia Mesuna—a young girl from Savelugu town in Northern Ghana—spent two agonizing months in a Carter Center Guinea worm containment center with 20 other children suffering from the disease. Today, Sadia, 7, is Guinea worm-free and has returned to school. This is her story of triumph and a new life without fear.

    Sadia Mesuna, 6, was in agony in February 2007 as three Guinea worms emerged from her feet, forcing her to spend two months at the containment center. "It was very painful, especially when they were dressing my wounds," Sadia said. "It feels more painful than stepping on fire coals or being cut. And you don't feel like eating anything."

    After treatment, Sadia recovers in a quiet corner, also rediscovering her sense of humor as she dons a volunteer's sunglasses, worn upside down.

    Sadia returns some days to her school, but after her two-month absence with Guinea worm disease in 2007, she struggles to cope and catch up.

    "I'll only drink filtered water from now on," vowed Sadia.

  • Give the Gift of Life

    What could make the people on your holiday gift list happier than knowing that they saved the life of a child, mother, or father? For only $10, you can provide a mosquito net to someone who lives in a malaria-infested area. Millions die each year from malaria, a nasty disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. World Relief Now delivers nets to villages that are hard-hit by malaria.

    These are children with new mosquito nets from World Relief Now.

    Find out more about malaria.

    Go directly to the World Relief Now donation page.

  • Will Elephantiasis be a disease of the past?

    If the Carter Center has anything to say about it, lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis) will be eliminated by 2020. Like many diseases in the tropics, elephantiasis is transmitted by mosquitoes. When an infected mosquito bites bites someone, it leaves worm larvae in the wound. The larvae swim to the lymph nodes in the person and make nests. The nests block the lymph system and cause fluid to build up. Female worms produce microscopic worms that swim in the blood of the infected person at night. A mosquito bites an infected person and picks up the worms to transmit to someone else.

    There is no cure for elephantiasis. You prevent it by using mosquito nets over beds at night and by taking de-worming medication. The Carter Center distributes netting and drugs (donated by two drug companies). The disease is referred to as elephantiasis because the later stages cause a person's skin to get hard and thick like an elephant's skin

    You can help them wipe out this disease by donating money.

  • Chagas Disease Increases Stroke Risk

    Some time ago I wrote about Chagas (Break the Silence: Get the Word Out About Chagas). It recently turned up in the BBC News as a cause of stroke. Chagas disease is caused by a parasite passed on by a blood-sucking insect. The insect sucks your blood and leaves you a present—trypanosoma cruzi. This is one present you don't want.

    If you get Chagas, your risk of stroke increases. Find out more by reading Parasite 'a growing stroke risk.'