Guinea-Worm Disease & Eradication: WHO Video Review

Guinea-worm disease, or dracunculiasis, is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) with no vaccine or medication for treatment. The disease is caused by a parasitic worm known as the Guinea-worm and is transmitted through contaminated drinking water. Guinea-worm disease is the first parasitic disease set for eradication and this short World Health Organization (WHO) video shows the progress of eradication efforts to date.

When someone drinks water from a source contaminated with water fleas that carry the Guinea-worm larvae, the larvae are released in the stomach and pass into the body cavity. Over the course of 10-14 months, the larvae mature and turn into worms. At this point, a painful blister forms on the outside of the body (usually on the lower legs and feet) as the female worms try to exit the body. The blister causes an intense burning sensation which often leads people to submerge their legs/feet in water for relief. While the blister is submerged, the female worm comes out and releases thousands of larvae into the water, thus contaminating the water and completing the cycle of infection. 

I find it amazing that Guinea-worm disease is on the verge of eradication because in this case, eradication has nearly been achieved through preventive measures alone. From health education and increased detection to water filtration and water treatment, the prevention efforts put forth have decreased the number of reported cases from 1,797 in 2010 to just 90 between January and June 2013.

This is a great accomplishment for the global health community. Congratulations to the WHO, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Carter Center, UNICEF and all others supporting the eradication of Guinea-worm disease!

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