Epidemiology: How is Guinea Worm Disease spread?
Dracunculus medinensis worms have been around for centuries. Calcified worms have even been discovered in Egyptian mummies .
Cases peaked in the 1980s with 3.5 million dracunculiasis cases worldwide (WHO). Almost 85% of these cases were in Africa and the rest in Asia. Preventive efforts have been so successful that the disease may be eradicated very soon. In 2020, there were only 27 human cases reported. In 2021, only 14 cases were reported in four countries – Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, and South Sudan [3,6].
People get infected with the disease when they drink stagnant water contaminated by the Guinea worm’s larvae. Another risk factor for Guinea worm infections is the ingestion of raw or undercooked fish, frogs, and other animals .
While dracunculiasis cases in humans are low, there is a new threat preventing the eradication of the disease. Countries like Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, and Cameroon are reporting a growing infection rate in dogs. According to new research, dogs are now the main reservoir for Guinea worms. They can get infected by eating fish, frogs, and other aquatic animals that may be asymptomatic carriers. Infections are more likely during the hot-dry season when people fish more often, and dogs gain access to these fish .