Kenya has no evidence of active Guinea Worm infections an official with the World Health Organization (WHO) official says.
Ashok Kumar, the Deputy Team leader of the International Certification Team, a body set up by WHO reveals in Nairobi that the country has not experienced a trace of the diseases in the last three years.
“We visited 44 of the 47 counties, interviewed communities, reviewed records and none recorded a trace of the disease,” Kumar says during a media briefing in Nairobi after completing their mission in the country.
The team that includes experts from the WHO and international consultants had been in the country for the last three weeks to evaluate Kenya’s status in regard to Guinea Worm.
“We recommend that Kenya continues strengthening surveillance, communication education and investment in the provision of safe water,” Kumar adds.
The team has been in the country following Kenya’s request to be evaluated and certified for a Guinea Worm free status.
The team has spoken to community leaders, individuals in the community, health personnel and County Government Executives.
The team that is facilitated by WHO will make recommendations to the International Commission for the Certification of Dranculiasis (Guinea Worm) Eradication (ICCDE), which will in turn make the final decision on Kenya’s status early next year.
They visited refugee camps, border areas and north Western Kenya that had the last reported case.
Guinea-worm disease is a parasitic disease that is transmitted through drinking stagnant water that has been contaminated with a tiny parasite-infected flea.
Once inside the body, the larvae can mature into worms that grow up to one meter in length and people may develop a fever, swelling and pain in the area where the adult worm is ready to come out.
Kenya’s Director of Medical Services Jackson Kioko commends the team adding that Kenya had developed activities towards creating awareness about the disease in 2012.
He says that the country will intensify cross border surveillance and increase availability of safe water in rural regions in a bid to eliminating water borne diseases like cholera in the country.
“We intend to increase awareness through various community set us and religious forums,” he adds.
Kenya’s first case was reported in 1994 and exotic case in 2005 in Turkana, North Western part of the country while the rest of the country has no experience of the disease.
Rudi Eggers WHO Country Representative to Kenya reveals that the findings will be forwarded to the International Committee for the Certification of Dracunculiasis Eradication (ICCDE) that will be meeting in February 2018 for official certification.
“In the event that Kenya will be certified, the country will have to reinforce Integrated Surveillance system and Response to ensure that any imported Guinea Worm is promptly detected and contained,” he adds.
Eggers assurs Kenya of the WHO’s continued technical support in complementing the government’s efforts in conducting surveillance.
To be declared free of guinea worm, a country needs to have reported zero instances of transmission and maintained active surveillance for at least 3 years afterwards.
Once the country is certified, Guinea Worm will be the second human disease ever to have been declared eradicated in Kenya after smallpox and the first human parasitic disease wiped off in the country.
From 3.5 million persons infected every year in mid 1980s, the number has since reduced to 25 in 2016 and 24 people in 2017. Chad and Ethiopia reported 14 and 10 infections this year.
186 out of 194 WHO member countries are already certified Guinea Worm free and only seven countries in the world remain to be certified.
Ghana was certified in January 2015 becoming the latest country to be certified while South Sudan, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo are on the pre-certification stage.
By Duncan Mboyah