Guinea worm disease (also known as dracunculiasis) is on the verge of eradication with only 54 cases reported in 2019. There are now only four countries – all of them in Africa – that are endemic for Guinea worm disease.
Guinea worm disease is a parasitic illness which is caught by drinking water that contains fleas infected with Guinea worm larvae. Once in the body, the larvae reproduce. Over the course of ten to 14 months in the body, female larvae can grow into worms that are over a meter long. Eventually, these worms begin to emerge from the skin through very painful blisters on the legs or feet. This is also accompanied by fever, nausea and vomiting.
Once a worm has emerged from the body, it must be carefully and slowly removed over several weeks. The wound caused often develops a secondary infection which increases the time it takes for an individual to resume normal activities.
If the worm is not removed, it can lead to septicaemia (infection across the whole body) and permanent disability for the person.