Contagious: Dracunculiasis


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About contagion: Contagion and contagiousness refers to how easily the spread of Dracunculiasis is possible from one person to another. Other words for contagion include "infection", "infectiousness", "transmission" or "transmissability". Contagiousness has nothing to do with genetics or inheriting diseases from parents. For an overview of contagion, see Introduction to Contagion.

Contagion discussion: People get infected with Guinea worm disease by drinking water contaminated with Dracunculus larvae. In the water, the larvae are swallowed by small copepods "water fleas." The worms mature inside the water flea and become infective in about 10 days. Once the worms have matured inside the water flea, any person who swallows contaminated water becomes infected. 

Once inside the body, the stomach acid digests the water flea, but not the Guinea worm. During the next year, the Guinea worm grows to full size adult. Adult worms are up to 3 feet long and
are as wide as a spaghetti noodle. 

After a year, the worm will migrate to the surface of the body. As the worm migrates, a blister develops on the skin where the worm will emerge. This blister will eventually rupture, causing a
very painful burning sensation. For relief, persons will immerse the affected skin into water. The temperature change causes the blister to erupt, exposing the worm. When someone with a
Guinea worm ulcer enters the water, the adult female emerges from the wound and releases a milky white liquid containing millions of immature worms into the water, thus contaminating the water supply. For several days after it has emerged from the ulcer, the female Guinea worm releases more immature worms when it comes in contact with water.1

When a person with a Guinea worm ulcer enters water (e.g., a pond), the adult female worm emerges from the wound and releases a milky white liquid containing thousands of immature worms into the water. In the water, these microscopic worms are swallowed by small copepods (water fleas). About 10 days after the water flea ingests them, the water fleas become infective to anyone who swallows them. Once swallowed, stomach acid digests the water flea, but not the Guinea worm. The Guinea worm then grows to adulthood, a process that takes about a year. 2

Footnotes:
1. excerpt from Dracunculiasis: DPD
2. excerpt from Facts About Dracunculiasis (Guinea Worm Disease): CDC-OC

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