Friday, February 19, 2010

More on Guinea Worm

Gathering drinking water at Guinea worm infested pond.

Guinea Worm disease, also known as dracunculiasis is contracted when a person drinks water that is contaminated with microscopic water fleas carrying infective larvae. Like Cholera the presence of Guinea worm disease is an indicator of extreme poverty, including the absence of safe drinking water, in a community. Victims are totally incapacitated as a worm emerges from their body and this leads to further poverty as, for example, farmers cannot farm.

There is no vaccine or medicine to treat or prevent Guinea worm disease. Infected people won't even realize they have it until a year after drinking contaminated water, when they will develop blisters as the worm begins to emerge. Extracting the worm safely is a tedious and painful procedure.

Amazingly the fight against Guinea worm has occurred using the simplest of all tools - education and changing people's behavior.
The most effective way to prevent it is to filter the tiny water fleas out of drinking water using fine-mesh filter cloths.

Because humans are an essential host in the life cycle if all human cases can be prevented then the disease can be eliminated. Guinea worm is now in a race with Polio to be the second disease that humans eliminate from the planet. You can read more about the efforts to eliminate Guinea worm at the Carter Center Guinea Worm eradication page.

"Hopefully Guinea worm will be the first parasitic disease ever eradicated. If and when that happens, we will have done it without a drug and without a vaccine to treat or prevent the disease. If we can do that, it will be one of the greatest achievements in public health."

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