Kenya declared Guinea-worm-free, awaits WHO nod

Saturday December 30 2017

A health worker removes a Guinea-worm from a patient’s leg in Central Equatoria state, South Sudan. PHOTO | FILE

A health worker removes a Guinea-worm from a patient’s leg in Central Equatoria state, South Sudan. PHOTO | FILE 

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Kenya has been declared free of Guinea-worm disease, after a comprehensive evaluation by international experts.

The International Certification Team (ICT) found no evidence of transmission of the disease in the past three years.

At the start of December, a team of local and international experts from Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, India and the US evaluated awareness about the disease scientifically known as dracunculiasis to see if there is a functional surveillance system that can detect Guinea-worm.

They visited 21 counties among them the three former endemic counties of Turkana, West Pokot and Trans Nzoia; 88 health facilities; 159 communities and 1,691 people.

Making the presentation in Nairobi, deputy head of the ICT Ashok Kumar, said the teams had found great awareness among the communities about the disease.

Their final report will be presented for review in February to the Geneva-based International Commission for the Certification of Dracunculiasis Eradication (ICCDE) before Kenya is officially certified as free of the disease.

Only the World Health Organisation has the mandate to certify countries as Guinea-worm-free, based on ICCDE’s recommendations.

People with the disease usually suffer leg blisters similar to the ones that develop when a someone is burnt by hot water or oil.
Once it bursts, the blister creates a wound that reveals a whitish worm.

To treat the condition, health workers start by pulling out the worm a painful process that can take days. Infection usually occurs via drinking water contaminated with fleas that carry the worm’s larvae.

Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu said Kenya had intensified disease surveillance and sensitisation of communities and had interrupted the transmission of Guinea-worm disease in 1994 and contained reported cases in 2005.

The Health Ministry in 2015 launched an advocacy campaign, offering a cash reward of $990 to anyone who could find indigenous Guinea-worm infestation within Kenya.

Countries yet to be declared Guinea-worm-free are South Sudan, Mali, Ethiopia, Chad, Sudan, Angola and the DR Congo.

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