By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

In a follow-up on a post from April, officials in Ethiopia are reporting at least seven suspected human cases of dracunculiasis, or Guinea worm infections, in recent weeks.

This image depicts a method used to extract a Guinea worm from the leg vein of a human patient.

The cases come from Duli village, Gog district in the Gambella region. The last cases in Ethiopia were reported in December 2017.

Worm specimens from all the suspected cases have been collected and are ready for shipment to the US Centers for Disease Control laboratory for confirmation. Morphologically, all specimens are consistent with Dracunculus medinensis.

The World Health Organization reports the following response to the outbreak:

  • As of 11 May 2020, active case search had been conducted in seven villages (the villages where the cases were detected and the nearby at-risk villages). During the investigation, 217 households were visited, and 1,447 people were interviewed and provided with health education in Gog district. Similarly, 2,302 people were interviewed from adjacent villages and three non-village areas of Abobo district.
  • As of 8 May 2020, a total of 173 suspected cases have been identified and admitted to a case containment center (CCC) for close follow up, of which 108 have been discharged and the remaining 65 suspected cases, which include the above-mentioned seven suspect cases, will be discharged if guinea worm disease is ruled out.
  • There were 557 people identified as having used the same water source(s) last year, as the seven current suspected cases. They are being followed up daily in their places of residence by the village-based volunteer, guinea worm officers and health extension workers.
  • Abate larvicide treatment has been applied in all known eligible ponds at Duli farms and in the villages of Metaget Dipach and Wadmaro in Gog Dipach Kebele. This will be repeated every month until the end of the transmission season.
  • Filter utilization practice was assessed during the inspection, and 80 pipes and 60 cloth filters were distributed as replacements.
  • WHO has provided guidance on how to conduct guinea worm disease activities in the field during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • WHO has maintained a strong surveillance system in all the refugee camps of Gambella and Benishangul Gumuz regions.

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Guinea worm disease (dracunculiasis) is usually contracted when people consume water contaminated with tiny crustaceans (copepods) that carry Guinea worm larvae. The larvae mature and mate inside the patient’s body. The male worm dies. After about a year, a meter-long female worm emerges slowly through a painful blister in the skin. Contact with water stimulates the emerging worm to release its larvae into the water and start the process all over again. Guinea worm disease incapacitates people for weeks or months, reducing individuals’ ability to care for themselves, work, grow food for their families, or attend school.

Without a vaccine or medicine, the ancient parasitic disease is being wiped out mainly through community-based interventions to educate people and change their behavior, such as teaching them to filter all drinking water and preventing contamination by keeping patients from entering water sources.