Guinea worm breaks out in Western Lakes state
By Viola Matela
The National Health Minister has declared an outbreak of Guinea worm disease in Maiwut and Latjor, Western Lakes state.
Minister of Health, Dr. Riak Gai Kok, told reporters in Juba yesterday that he was disappointed over the new status of the disease in the country.
“We are coming to inform you of the setback in eradicating Guinea worm disease in South Sudan,” he said.
In March this year, South Sudan completed the first half of the 3-year period required for Guinea worm free certification. There was no single reported case of Guinea worm for 18 consecutive months, a major victory for the country that once had the most cases of the painful parasite.
However, Dr. Kok said the country had the best surveillance system in the region according to World Health Organization (WHO) report team from Geneva ahead of Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya.
“Over 20 cases were reported two weeks ago and sent to Atlanta where three cases were confirmed positive,” he said.
Dr. Moses Mutebi Nganda, a senior staff of WHO said that they were able to track down on Guinea worm because of the reward. He said they often give a reward of 20,000 SSP to any person who discloses the information and the patient get 10,000 SSP.
He expressed concern for safe drinking water being the next immediate solution as more remedies are being sorted out.
Mahimbo Mdoe, United Nations Children Agency (UNICEF) representative urged health partners to view this setback as a good one since it puts up the challenge.
He said it was really an “awful thing” to watch a child having the worm extracted. “We will continue with our collaboration with MoH and partners to work closely in surveillance and mobilize hygiene practices and encourage locals to report cases to NGOs or nearby health centres,” he said.
According to Makoy Samuel Yisa of Guinea worm Eradication Programme under the Ministry of Health, humans usually contract the disease by consuming water contaminated with Guinea worm larvae.
Inside the body, the larvae mate, and female worms grows for 10-14months. After the incubation period, milky white female worms pierce the skin and burst out of the human body in search of a water source to deposit their millions of larvae. The process creates festering blisters that are excruciatingly painful.
He said this can take weeks, even months, for the worm to fully emerge. There is no treatment except to wrap the worm around a stick to facilitate its removal. People have no option but to suffer through the process. If the worm is broken, its larvae go into skin tissue.
Makoy added that the social impact is, men and women are unable to work for months; children miss school.
He also reported that two of the reported cases, a family and peer tree is being followed along the pastoralist tracks where the disease has been identified.
“We have deployed teams to follow these cattle groups in order to ensure no further transmission for the next one year,” he remarked.
The Carter Center Country Representative, Sarah Yerian reiterated its commitment to the program until the disease is finally eradicated and added that it required teamwork from all the partners like UNICEF and WHO.