By SOLA OGUNDIPE
Guinea worm disease, also known as dracunculiasis, is a parasitic infection caused by the nematode roundworm parasite Dracunculus medenisis.
Guinea worm disease is contracted when people ingest drinking water from stagnant sources containing copepods (commonly referred to as water fleas) that harbor infective Guinea worm larvae.
Nigeria is on the verge of attaining recognition as a World Health Organisation, WHO, certified guinea worm-free country.
Over the last couple of decades, the Nigeria Guineaworm Eradication Programme, NIGEP, has been pushing eradication efforts to the extent that over the last 52 weeks, no verifiable case of the disease has been reported.
Following a series of effective health education, water purification and carrier control programmes, no recurrence of the disease has been recorded since the last reported guinea worm case in November 2008.
In 1988, there were 21 guinea worm endemic countries. To date just three countries are guinea worm endemic in the entire world. They are Ethiopia (least endemic), Mali and South Sudan (most endemic).
Thirteen countries have completely stopped transmission. They include Benin Republic – 2004, Burkina Faso – 2006; Chad – 1998 (isolated outbreak 2010/2011); Cote d’lvoire – 2006 and
Ghana – 2010.
Others are Kenya – 1994; Mauritania – 2004; Niger – 2008;
Nigeria – 2008; Sudan – 2002; Togo – 2006 and Uganda – 2003.
Countries already certified by WHO as guinea worm free nations are Cameroon – 2007; Central African Republic – 2007; India – 2000; Pakistan – 1996; Senegal – 2004 and Yemen – 2004.
In June, the International Commission for the Certification of Dracunculiasis Eradication is visiting Nigeria to assess the surveillance and reporting efforts, as well as verify and confirm the claim of the absence of indigenous dracunculiasis transmission, prior to certification.
As of 1 May 2013, the Commission had certified 192 countries and territories, including 180 WHO Member States, as free of dracunculiasis transmission. Depending on the outcome of the assessment, the commission recommends to WHO which formerly endemic countries should be declared free of transmission, i.e., certified as free of the disease.