Health topics



Dracunculiasis (more commonly known as guinea-worm disease) is a crippling parasitic disease caused by Dracunculus medinensis, a long, thread-like worm. It is transmitted exclusively when people drink stagnant water contaminated with parasite-infected water fleas. About a year after the infection, a painful blister forms – 90% of the time on the lower leg – and one or more worms emerge accompanied by a burning sensation. To soothe the burning pain, patients often immerse the infected area in water. The worm(s) then releases thousands of larvae (baby worms) into the water. These larvae reach the infective stage after being ingested by tiny crustaceans or copepods, also called water fleas.

There is no vaccine to prevent and no medication to treat the disease. However, global efforts to eradicate the disease are ongoing through preventive strategies, such as intensifying surveillance, preventing drinking-water contamination, providing improved drinking-water supplies and implementing vector control. By the end of 2014, the annual incidence of the disease had decreased by more than 99% compared to the mid-1980s. Currently, cases due to transmission have been reported only in Chad, Ethiopia, Mali and South Sudan.

The disease is not endemic in the Western Pacific Region.