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close this bookFood, Water and Family Health: A Manual for Community Educators (UNDP - WHO, 1994, 108 p.)
close this folderUnit 2: Coping with some of our special health problems
View the documentDiarrhoea
View the documentGuinea worm (for parts of Africa and India)
View the documentSchistosomiasis
View the documentMosquitos
View the documentAIDS

Guinea worm (for parts of Africa and India)

One of the favourite gathering places in our community is a large, open well with steps. But drinking water from the well has infected people with guinea worm. Other people became sick by drinking out of ponds or puddles in the fields.

“No one will get guinea worm if we drink only water from protected wells and stand-pipes,” the school teacher explained at a water committee meeting.

“Boiling water makes it safe from guinea worm. You can also filter drinking water through a linen cloth or simple nylon gauze to keep your water free from this disease,” she explained.

“Filtering through a cloth protects us from guinea worm, but not from other diseases,” we were reminded.

“It is a good idea to boil or chlorinate unsafe water if we can.”

Guinea worm eggs in the water are too small to be seen. When the eggs are swallowed they hatch inside the body and grow into large worms.

These fester under the skin, causing so much discomfort for sufferers that they are unable to plant or harvest crops or go to school. A person with guinea worm has itchy blisters which form after the worm has moved close to the surface of the skin.

People with the disease put their feet in cold water for relief from the terrible itching caused by the guinea worm. But the guinea worm also likes cold water. The worm pushes through the skin, hangs through the hole, and lays its eggs.