Guinea Worm Disease (Dracunculiasis)

Guinea worm disease facts*

*Guinea worm disease facts by

  • 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?

Dracunculiasis, more commonly known as Guinea worm disease (GWD), is a preventable infection caused by the parasite Dracunculus medinensis. Infection affects poor communities in remote parts of Africa that do not have safe water to drink.

Currently, many organizations, including The Global 2000 program of The Carter Center of Emory University, UNICEF, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) are helping to eradicate the disease. Since 1986, when an estimated 3.5 million people were infected annually, the campaign has eliminated much of the disease. The number of cases went down to 542 in 2012.

In 2011, only four countries reported cases of GWD: Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, and South Sudan. All affected countries are aiming to eliminate Guinea worm disease as soon as possible.

Life cycle of Dracunculus medinensis (Guinea worm disease)
Life cycle of Dracunculus medinensis (Guinea worm disease). Source: CDC
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/3/2014

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