Neglected tropical diseases

South Sudan to scale up interventions to interrupt dracunculiasis transmission by 2013

23 May 2012 | Geneva
South Sudan has announced a scale up of interventions aimed at interrupting the transmission of dracunculiasis by 2013.

The country reported 1028 cases (97%) of the global total of all reported cases of dracunculiasis (also known as guinea-worm disease) in 2011. Other countries where dracunculiasis transmission occurred in 2011 are Chad (10 cases), Ethiopia (8 cases) and Mali (12 cases).

Addressing an informal meeting of Ministers of Health of guinea-worm endemic countries during the 65th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, Michael Milly Hissen, South Sudan's Minister of Health, expressed his appreciation for the assistance his country has received in the fight against the disease.

"I want to appreciate here the vital role of partners in the eradication campaign and particularly … The Carter Center, WHO, UNICEF and others … whose unwavering commitment and support has made it possible for us to come this far.

South Sudan launched a full-scale guinea-worm eradication programme in 2006, much later than other endemic countries, due to the prevailing security situation in the country. Since then, the number of dracunculiasis cases has reduced sharply, from 20 582 in 2006 to 1028 in 2011, a reduction of 95% in 5 years.

Between 1 January and 30 April 2012, South Sudan reported 142 cases, compared with 377 cases during the same period in 2011. In April 2012, Ethiopia reported one confirmed case.

The three other countries that are still affected by dracunculiasis (Chad, Ethiopia and Mali) spoke of their commitment to interrupt transmission and intensify surveillance. The meeting also emphasized the importance for previously endemic countries to maintain cautious surveillance for the prompt containment of any reported or rumoured case of dracunculiasis.

Many countries have successfully implemented measures to eradicate dracunculiasis. The latest is Ghana, which counted 180 000 cases in 1989. It reported its last case in May 2010 and has since become the most recent country to have completely interrupted transmission.

During the 1980s, almost 3.5 million cases of dracunculiasis were reported from 20 countries worldwide, 17 of which were in Africa. Lack of safe drinking-water, insecurity and population movements remain major impediments to interrupting transmission.

WHO Deputy Director-General Dr Anarfi Asamoa-Baah, WHO ADG-HTM Dr Hiro Nakatani, WHO RD EMRO, Dr Ala Alwan and Medical officer Dr Gautam Biswas

Dracunculiasis is a crippling parasitic disease caused by Dracunculus medinensis, a long thread-like worm. The disease, which has afflicted humanity for centuries, is transmitted exclusively when people drink water contaminated with parasite-infected water fleas.