Dracunculiasis

Guinea worn disease, Medina worm disease

Overview

Type of disease: Rare conditions

Dracunculiasis is an infection caused by the guinea worm. The most common cause of this infection is drinking contaminated water that usually has water fleas that contain the guinea worm’s larvae. Initially there are no symptoms and it may take about up to a year for the worms to exit the human body which is when symptoms begin. The worms may spread throughout different parts of the body and eventually emerge through the skin causing immense pain. The most common areas for the worms to appear are on the lower legs and feet. This infection is usually accompanied by blisters, ulcers, nausea, fever, and vomiting. Although there are currently no vaccination or treatments for this disease, this infection is rarely fatal, and there are preventative measures against this infection. Secondary infections, after the exit of the worms is the major cause for concern and may include cellulitis, tetanus, sepsis, and abscess. If the lesion occurs near a joint it can lead to joint contractures (where the joint stiffens in a bent position) and disability. Careful removal of the worms and treatment of the blisters are crucial in preventing any secondary infections.

Dracunculiasis is considered a neglected tropical disease (NTD) by the World Health Organization (WHO), meaning that it affects the world’s poorest populations in some of the most remote and rural tropical and subtropical areas. These types of diseases persist in poverty conditions due to little or no access to medical care or clean drinking water sources. The global dracunculiasis program has drastically reduced this parasitic infection in recent years, with cases being reported in just a few remaining countries. Please be wary when drinking water, especially in unsanitary places and fully filter potentially contaminated water sources.

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