Dr Joaquim Saweka, the country representative at the World Health Organisation, while speaking at the opening of a cross-border meeting to strengthen guinea worm disease eradication interventions in East and Central Africa held in Entebbe, said, “Uganda is one of the countries at high risks of importation and re-establishment of transmission of Guinea worm disease from South Sudan and Ethiopia.”
He said that there is need for Uganda and South Sudan to keep vigilant and maintain strong surveillance systems to enable early detection of any imported or reported cases.
People infected with Guinea worm spread the disease when they immerse their blisters in water and allow the worm to contaminate it with new larvae, continuing its life cycle.
The state minister for Health Sarah Opendi added that the government has already rolled out plans to control a possible reoccurrence including putting in place a strong surveillance system.
“We will reinforce health workers training particularly guinea worm volunteers, village health team members and health education for communities in areas at risk at the sub-county and village levels,” she added.
After decades of civil war in southern Sudan, the return of peace is allowing health workers to strengthen their fight against Guinea worm disease.
Guinea worm is contracted by drinking contaminated water. The worms grow in the body for about a year and then emerge slowly, for weeks, through painful skin blisters that incapacitate and sometimes cripple their victims.
The director of the Guinea Worm Program at the Carter Center, Ernesto Ruiz-Tiben, says, “Sudan is the most important repository of Guinea worm disease anywhere.”
However, Uganda could see a return to Guinea worm unless strong control measures are put in place. Health experts have warned that the booming trade with neighboring countries could increase the risk from people coming from South Sudan and Ethiopia where cases are still being reported.