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Author Topic: West African successes against guinea worm disease - (Aug, 2010)  (Read 3391 times)
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Francis Umeoguaju
Expert in Bioscience Issues
Posts: 657

« on: August 23, 2010, 06:05:17 pm »

West African successes against guinea worm disease - (Aug, 2010 bioscience headlines)

The goal of freeing the world from dracunculiasis (guinea worm disease) is getting closer. Reports from West Africa show that remarkable progress has been made.

In Ghana, only eight cases were recorded in the first half of this year, all of them occurring in just four villages in the country’s northern region. During 2006, there were 4,136 cases. Speaking at a meeting of the Ghana Guinea Worm Eradication Programme, national programme manager Dr Andrew Seidu Korkor, said there had been a 99.99% reduction in case numbers since the programme was launched in 1989.

Dr Korkor attributed the level of success to several factors, including acceptance of improved government funding, the declaration of guinea worm disease as a disaster in the northern region, and free treatment for all cases across the country. A major drive to improve water supply had also changed peoples’ attitudes towards the programme and improved their compliance with preventive measures. However, he noted that access to safe water is still a problem for many Ghanaians and that the risk of re-infection will always be present until the last case has been detected and contained.

The situation in Nigeria has been discussed in a new report [1] in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene. The article describes how the country, which at one time had the highest number of cases of dracunculiasis in the world, reduced this number from more than 653,000 in 1988 to zero in 2009. (Nigeria’s last case was identified in November 2008.)

Village-based volunteers formed the foundation of the programme, which used health education, cloth filters, vector control, advocacy for safe water, voluntary isolation of patients, and monthly monitoring procedures. Other factors identified by the authors as important for the programme’s success included strong governmental support, advocacy by a former Nigerian head of state (Yakubu Gowon), technical and financial assistance by the Carter Center, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, WHO, and other partners and donors. The cost of the programme during 1988–2009 is estimated to be $37.5 million, not including funding for water supply projects or salaries of Nigerian governmental workers.

Although Nigeria has now been dracunculiasis-free for over a year, the authors stress that maintenance of adequate surveillance for any indigenous or imported case remains an important concern, even though the risk of either is now considered to be small. (The country must complete a further two years without cases before it is officially certified as free of the disease by WHO.)Read more? >>
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