Dracunculiasis: 27 cases reported during first half of the year

International Certification Team completes evaluation mission in Ghana
8 August 2014 | Geneva
Awareness campaign at a village school in South Sudan, 2013

Progress to achieve eradication of dracunculiasis (guinea-worm disease) has been steady for the first half of the year. By the end of June 2014, WHO had received reports of 27 cases compared with 92 cases for the same period in 2013.

This represents a decrease of 70% in the number of reported cases.

Four countries are currently endemic for guinea-worm disease: Chad, Ethiopia, Mali and South Sudan. Mali has reported zero cases since January 2014. Cases from the three others are as follows:

  • Chad – 6
  • Ethiopia – 2
  • South Sudan – 19

However, reports from the field in South Sudan are indicating a rise in the number of cases in July, where average transmission peaks between April and July. A delay in detection and case containment could set the eradication clock back at least one year, as the incubation period of the disease is 10–14 months.

Ghana mission

In May 2014, the Ministry of Health of Ghana requested WHO to certify the country free from dracunculiasis transmission. In response, an International Certification Team (ICT) was constituted comprising seven international experts (from Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, USA and Yemen) and five independent national experts.

The ICT mission took place in Ghana on 7–25 July 2014 to independently assess interruption of dracunculiasis transmission. The team visited 10 regions, 47 districts (out of 216 districts, representing 22% of the total) and 119 communities; it consulted 1320 respondents.

The conclusions and recommendations of the ICT will be reviewed and discussed by the International Commission for the Certification of Dracunculiasis Eradication, which is scheduled to meet in January 2015.

An expert review meeting was organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at The Carter Center in Atlanta, USA on 29–30 July 2014. The meeting was attended by eminent public health experts, scientists, donors and developmental agencies as well as staff from WHO and The Carter Center. The participants recognized the challenges in Chad as being due to a peculiar epidemiology not seen earlier and reiterated that all possible solutions need to be identified to interrupt transmission by 2015, the target set in WHO’s roadmap.

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