Guinea Worm Disease (Dracunculiasis)

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Who is at risk for infection with Guinea worm disease?

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

Is Guinea worm disease a serious illness?

Yes. The disease causes preventable suffering for infected people and is a financial and social burden for affected communities. Adult female worms come out of the skin slowly and cause great pain and disability. Parents with active Guinea worm disease might not be able to care for their children. The worm often comes out of the skin during planting and harvesting season. Therefore, people might also be prevented from working in their fields and tending their animals. This can lead to financial problems for the entire family. Children may be required to work the fields or tend animals in place of their sick parents. This can keep 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. No one is immune to Guinea worm disease. People in affected villages can suffer year after year.

Is it possible to prevent Guinea worm disease?

Guinea worm disease can be prevented by avoiding drinking unsafe water. Teaching people to follow these simple control tactics can completely prevent the spread of the disease:

  • Drink only water from protected sources (such as from boreholes or hand-dug wells) that are free from contamination.
  • Prevent people with swellings and wounds from entering ponds and other water used for drinking.
  • Always filter drinking water from unsafe sources, using a cloth filter or a pipe filter, to remove the tiny "water fleas" that carry the Guinea worm larvae.
  • Treat unsafe drinking water sources with an approved larvicide, such as ABATE®*. This will kill the tiny "water fleas."
  • Provide communities with new safe sources of drinking water and repair broken safe water sources (e.g., hand-pumps) if possible.

SOURCE:

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Guinea Worm Disease Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)." Apr. 3, 2015. <http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/guineaworm/gen_info/faqs.html>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/3/2015
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