February 8, 2016
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Guinea Worm Disease (cont.)

Who is at risk for infection?

Anyone who drinks standing pond water contaminated by persons with GWD is at risk for infection. People who live in villages where the infection is common are at greatest risk.

Is Guinea worm disease a serious illness?

Yes. The disease causes preventable suffering for infected persons and is a heavy economic and social burden for affected communities. Emergence of the adult female worms can be very painful, slow, and disabling. Parents who have active Guinea worm disease may not be able to care for their children. They are also prevented from working in their fields and tending their animals. Because worm emergence usually occurs during planting and harvesting season, heavy crop losses may result leading to financial problems for the entire family. Children may be required to work the fields or tend animals in place of their disabled parents, preventing them from attending school. Therefore, GWD is both a disease of poverty and also a cause of poverty because of the disability it causes.

Is a person immune to Guinea worm disease once he or she has it?

No. Infection does not produce immunity, and many people in affected villages suffer disease year after year.

How can Guinea worm disease be prevented?

Because GWD can only be transmitted via drinking contaminated water, educating people to follow these simple control measures can completely prevent illness and eliminate transmission of the disease:

  • Drink only water from underground sources (such as from borehole or hand-dug wells) free from contamination.
  • Prevent persons with an open Guinea worm ulcer from entering ponds and wells used for drinking water.
  • Always filter drinking water, using a cloth filter, to remove the water fleas.

Additionally, unsafe sources of drinking water can be treated with an approved larvicide, such as ABATE®*, which kills copepods. Communities can be provided with new safe sources of drinking water, or have existing dysfunctional ones repaired.

*Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by the Public Health Service or by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Medically reviewed by Robert Cox, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Infectious Disease

Last update: 4/6/2010


U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Parasitic Diseases

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/3/2014

Source: MedicineNet.com

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