NAIROBI, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Kenya and the UN World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday launched an evaluation process aimed at eradicating Guinea worm disease in the country.
Joel Breman of U.S. department of Health and Human services, who is leading the process, said his team will assess the adequacy of the surveillance system and review records of investigations regarding reported cases of the disease and subsequent actions taken.
"We intend to visit refugee camps, border areas and northwestern Kenya that had the last reported case," Breman told journalists during launch of the exercise in Nairobi.
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.
Cabinet Secretary for Health Cleopa Mailu revealed that Kenya's first case was reported in 1994 and exotic case in 2005.
He said that Kenya's certification is long overdue and that the government will accord the team all the necessary support to complete their work successfully.
"The two cases were reported in northwestern part of the country while the rest of the country has no experience of the disease," Mailu added.
Mailu said that Kenya started guinea worm eradication program in 1989 and has since continued creating awareness and surveillance to detect and contain any imported case.
WHO Country Representative Rudi Eggers said that it will be a significant and historical public health achievement in Kenya and the world if the country is declared free from the disease.
"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," he added.
Eggers cautioned that due to the fact that some of Kenya's neighbors are still endemic, the country should continue with its effort even after certification until the whole world is declared free from the diseases.
From 3.5 million persons infected with Guinea worm every year in the world 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.
According to WHO, 186 out of 194 WHO member countries are already certified guinea worm free and only eight countries in the world including Kenya 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 the Congo are on the pre-certification stage.
To be declared free of guinea worm, a country needs to have reported zero instances of transmission and maintained active surveillance for at least three years afterwards. Enditem