July 24, 2016
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Guinea Worm Disease (Dracunculiasis)

Guinea worm disease facts*

*Guinea worm disease facts by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

  • Dracunculiasis, more commonly known as Guinea worm disease (GWD), is a preventable infection caused by the parasite Dracunculus medinensis.
  • In 2011, only four countries reported cases of GWD: Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, and South Sudan.
  • Anyone who drinks standing pond water contaminated by persons with GWD is at risk for infection.
  • About 1 year after a person drinks contaminated water, the adult female Guinea worm emerges from a painful blister on the skin of the infected person.
  • A few days to hours before the worm emerges, the person may develop symptoms of fever, swelling, and pain in the area. More than 90% of the worms appear on the legs and feet.
  • There is no drug to treat Guinea worm disease (GWD) and no vaccine to prevent infection. Once the worm emerges from the wound, it can only be pulled out a few centimeters each day and wrapped around a piece of gauze or small stick. This process usually takes weeks or months. The worm can also be surgically removed by a doctor before an ulcer forms.
  • To prevent GWD, education on how to make drinking water safe is key.

What is dracunculiasis (Guinea worm disease)?

Dracunculiasis, also known as Guinea worm disease (GWD), is an infection caused by the parasite Dracunculus medinensis. A parasite is an organism that feeds off of another to survive. GWD is spread by drinking water containing Guinea worm larvae. Larvae are immature forms of the worm. GWD affects poor communities in remote parts of Africa that do not have safe water to drink. GWD is considered by global health officials to be a neglected tropical disease (NTD) -- the first parasitic disease slated to be eradicated.

Many federal, private, and international agencies are helping the countries that still have local GWD cases to eradicate this disease. During 2014, only four countries had local GWD cases: Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, and South Sudan. Cases have gone from 3.5 million per year in 1986 to 126 in 2014.

Life cycle of Dracunculus medinensis (Guinea worm disease)
Life cycle of Dracunculus medinensis (Guinea worm disease). Source: CDC
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/3/2015

Source: MedicineNet.com

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