Progress Toward Global Eradication of Dracunculiasis, January 2020–June 2021
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Progress Toward Global Eradication of Dracunculiasis, January 2020–June 2021

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  • Alternative Title:
    MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep
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  • Description:
    Dracunculiasis (Guinea worm disease), caused by the parasite Dracunculus medinensis, is traditionally acquired by drinking water containing copepods (water fleas) infected with D. medinensis larvae, but in recent years also appears increasingly to be transmitted by eating fish or other aquatic animals. The worm typically emerges through the skin on a lower limb of the host 1 year after infection, causing pain and disability (1). There is no vaccine or medicine to prevent or medicine to treat dracunculiasis; eradication relies on case containment* to prevent water contamination and other interventions to prevent infection: health education, water filtration, treatment of unsafe water with temephos (an organophosphate larvicide), and provision of safe drinking water (1,2). The eradication campaign began in 1980 at CDC (1). In 1986, with an estimated 3.5 million cases| occurring annually in 20 African and Asian countries| (3), the World Health Assembly called for dracunculiasis elimination (4). The Guinea Worm Eradication Program (GWEP), led by The Carter Center and supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, CDC, and other partners, began assisting ministries of health in countries with endemic disease. With 27 cases in humans reported in 2020, five during January-June 2021, and only six countries currently affected by dracunculiasis (Angola, Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, South Sudan, and importations into Cameroon), achievement of eradication appears to be close. However, dracunculiasis eradication is challenged by civil unrest, insecurity, and epidemiologic and zoologic concerns. Guinea worm infections in dogs were first reported in Chad in 2012. Animal infections have now overtaken human cases, with 1,601 reported animal infections in 2020 and 443 during January-June 2021. Currently, all national GWEPs remain fully operational, with precautions taken to ensure safety of program staff and community members in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of COVID-19, The Carter Center convened the 2020 and 2021 annual GWEP Program Managers meetings virtually, and WHO's International Commission for the Certification of Dracunculiasis Eradication met virtually in October 2020. Since 1986, WHO has certified 199 countries, areas, and territories dracunculiasis-free. Six countries are still affected: five with endemic disease and importations into Cameroon. Seven countries (five with endemic dracunculiasis, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sudan) still lack certification (4). The existence of infected dogs, especially in Chad, and impeded access because of civil unrest and insecurity in Mali and South Sudan are now the greatest challenges to interrupting Transmission. This report describes progress during January 2020-June 2021 and updates previous reports (2,4,5).
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