WHO set to declare Kenya free of Guinea worm disease

The World Health Organization is likely to certify Kenya free of the Guinea worm disease before the end of the year.

However, this is on condition that no case of the disease is reported before then.

“We have started a campaign in search of the last Guinea worm disease case in the country before the certification is given,” WHO public health adviser Joyce Oigara said.

CERTIFICATION
Dr Oigara said a reward of Sh100,000 awaits a Kenyan who reports any suspected case of the disease within the country’s borders.

“The Ministry of Health and other actors in the health sector have been involved. The public can make reports through phone number 0732353535 or 0729471414, or at any public health facility near them,” she said.

Kenya is the only country that has remained not certified in terms of being free of the disease after the last indigenous case was reported in 1994.

“The average number of years taken by all formerly endemic countries for certification after the last indigenous case is four or five years,” Dr Oigara said.

SURVEILLANCE
In an interview, Dr Oigara said if Kenya receives the certification, it will join 198 other countries in the world and 40 in Africa in that league.

“Ghana was the latest to be certified. This was in January 2015,” she said.

“Kenya, South Sudan, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo are on the pre-certification stage.”

A number of countries have not been certified due to population movement risks from endemic borders.

“But enhanced surveillance and public awareness have put Kenya on track to achieving the Guinea worm disease-free certification by the end of 2017,” she said.

PREVENTABLE DISEASE
She said a certification committee had been put in place and disease reporting and documentation integrated into information systems.

Just like other worms, the Guinea worm is not easy to detect until it pierces the skin and rears its threadlike body.

Dr Oigara said the worm infects people who use untreated water for drinking and can stay in the body for a year before coming out through the skin to lay eggs.

“The disease is very painful but preventable. The worm can be up to 1.2 metres long. It should be removed by a medic at a health facility,” said the official.

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