Neglected tropical diseases

Dracunculiasis: WHO upbeat about eradicating dracunculiasis

Reiterates call for stricter surveillance and instant case-reporting

11 March 2011 | Geneva

© Dr Gautam Biswas

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for heightened surveillance and the immediate reporting of any suspected case of dracunculiasis, also known as guinea-worm disease. Confirmed data show the total number of reported cases of dracunculiasis in 2010 fell to a historic low of less than 2000, raising prospects for imminent eradication of the disease.

Given the dramatic reduction in the number of dracunculiasis cases, WHO is reiterating the need for stricter surveillance and immediate case-reporting. In 2010, Chad reported an outbreak of 10 cases of dracunculiasis, a decade after reporting its last case.

Play now audio summary–Dracunculiasis 2011
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“…The total number of confirmed dracunculiasis cases in 2010 dropped to 1797 from 3 190 in 2009…”.

“…Based on reports received from countries, Ghana and Ethiopia may have stopped transmission. This leaves only Mali, Sudan and more recently, Chad where transmission needs to be interrupted. As guinea-worm disease occurs in very remote rural areas which are often unreachable, we need to further mobilize communities and resources to promptly act and contain any suspected case.”

Dr Gautam Biswas, Team Leader WHO Dracunculiasis Eradication Programme in Geneva, Switzerland

Success story – Ghana

Ghana has successfully implemented measures to eradicate dracunculiasis. In 1989 there were 189 000 cases. By June 2010 there were only 8 cases and zero cases have been reported since then.
Furthermore, to encourage the prompt reporting of any suspected case of dracunculiasis, the Ministry of health offers cash rewards to those reporting any suspected or rumoured cases.

Southern Sudan – the hotbed

In 2010, Southern Sudan reported more than 94% of the total number of dracunculiasis (1 698 confirmed cases.)
The number of cases has reduced by 82% since 2006, when the Guinea-worm Eradication Programme was launched.
Insecurity in the region remains the biggest threat to the dracunculiasis eradication campaign.

The disease

Dracunculiasis, a water-borne disease currently found in the most deprived regions of Africa, is transmitted uniquely by drinking contaminated water. People affected by the disease are often unable to attend school, to farm or to do other work, resulting in increased poverty. The disease is easily prevented through simple measures such as filtering all drinking-water and educating infected people never to wade into water, which perpetuates the life-cycle of the disease.

When the eradication campaign began in 1986, there were an estimated 3.5 million cases of dracunculiasis. Some 20 countries in Africa and Asia have been known to be affected by guinea-worm disease.

Dracunculiasis is expected to become the second disease after smallpox to be eradicated – and the first disease to have been eradicated without the use of any drug or vaccine.

Dracunculiasis Website

Online atlas on Dracunculiasis Eradication