Guinea worm disease also known as Dracunculiasis is a rare type of parasitic infection caused by drinking stagnated water. This disease is a rare type of infection occurring in some underdeveloped countries like Ethiopia, Sudan and Mali and remote parts of Africa. The worm gets into the person in the form of larvae when he/she drinks the contaminated stagnant water from the pond and resides inside the body. After about a year the larvae grows into an adult worm and emerges out of the body.
It can cause symptoms of fever and swelling. There is no treatment for guinea worm disease and the only way to prevent this infection is to drink clean water. In the underdeveloped countries and in some remote regions potable water will not be available to drink and hence poor people may drink stagnated water from the ponds. This can cause infection. Only few cases of GWD have been reported so far.
Mode of Transmission :
When a person drinks pond water or any kind of stagnated water that contains the larval stage of guinea worm, it enters into his body. After a year or so, the adult worm would emerge from his body mostly from the skin on his feet. As the person continues to ignore the worm and when he enters any source of water bodies the worm would emit larvae into the water. This water again gets contaminated and infects other person when he/she drinks it accidentally.
The larval form of guinea worm remains in the body of copepods (small organism present in water) and enters into the body of another person when he/she drinks the water. The larvae of the worm would enter into the small intestine and remains inside the wall of the intestine for about a year. When it grows into complete adult worm measuring 2-3 feet long it would migrate within the body and finally emerge out of the body from the skin.
At the site where the worm emerges out of the body, the skin would develop painful blisters with burning sensation. The worm is capable of discharging several millions of larvae into the water whenever the person comes into contact with water. The cycle would start again to infect another person.
For about a year the infected person will not have any visible signs. Once the worm gets ready to emerge from the body symptoms begin to appear. The person may develop fever and swelling of skin at the point where the worm would emerge. Often the worm would emerge from the body from the legs or feet portion. That area develops painful blisters and only a part of the worm would emerge out of the body. It would cause burning sensation when it peers out the skin to come out. Skin lesions are formed and for some people the joints may get infected causing temporary immobility in feet.
There is no test to detect GWD. The infected person will get to know about it when he sees the worm emerging from his body causing painful lesions on the skin.
No vaccine is available to prevent guinea worm disease. Once the worm comes out of the wound, it can be gently pulled out for few centimeters every day and kept in a piece of gauze. The entire worm can be pulled out by surgery by an expert doctor. For many people it may take weeks or even months for the worm to be removed completely.
To manage pain and discomfort caused by painful ulcers on the skin, the person can take aspirin or brufen. Antibiotic creams can be applied on the skin where the worm emerges from the body to prevent further growth of bacteria on it.
Guinea worm disease has been reported only in some countries of Saharan Africa. Often people of remote villages where proper water source is not available are affected. Countries of Ethiopia, Chad, Mali and Sudan have few cases of GWD. At present, World Health Organization has declared many countries free from GWD and even some of the endemic countries are not transmission free.
Worm emergence can take several weeks or months making the person disabled from attending his routine work. There are farmers who may stop going to their field during planting or harvesting season due to heavy pain when the worm comes out of the body.
- Drinking pure and safe water is the only way to prevent GWD infection.
- People of remote villages should be educated about the threat of drinking pond water.
- Government should come forward to provide good water source in all remote villages.
- Any person having worm emergence should not be allowed to enter ponds or wells or any water bodies used for drinking so that the disease would not get transmitted to others.