Dracunculiasis is also called guinea worm disease (GWD), is an infection by the guinea worm. A person becomes infected when they drink water that contains water fleas infected with guinea worm larvae. Initially there are no symptoms. About one year later, the person develops a painful burning feeling as the female worm forms a blister in the skin, usually on the lower limb. Humans and dogs are the only known animals that guinea worms infect. The worm is about one to two millimeters wide and an adult female is 60 to 100 centimeters long (males are much shorter at 12?29 mm or 0.47?1.14 in). Outside of humans the eggs can survive up to three weeks, during which they must be eaten by water fleas to continue to develop. The larva inside water fleas may survive up to four months. Thus the disease must occur each year in humans to stay in an area.
Infected persons do not usually have symptoms until about one year after they become infected. A few days to hours before the worm emerges, the person may develop a fever, swelling, and pain in the area. More than 90% of the worms appear on the legs and feet, but may occur anywhere on the body. There is no particular vaccine or medicine to prevent guinea worm disease. Analgesics can be used to help reduce swelling and pain and antibiotic ointments can help prevent secondary infections at the wound site. The local team preferred to use something called "Tamale oil" (after the regional capital) which lubricated the worm and aided its extraction. Putrefaction leads to the skin sloughing off around the worm. Use of metronidazole or thiabendazole may make extraction easier, but also may lead to migration to other parts of the body.
In 2014 there were 126 cases of the disease reported. This is down from 3.5 million cases in 1986. It only exists in 4 countries in Africa, down from 20 countries in the 1980s. The country most affected is South Sudan. It will likely be the first parasitic disease to be globally eradicated. Guinea worm disease has been known since ancient times. It is mentioned in the Egyptian medical Ebers Papyrus, dating from 1550 BC. The name dracunculiasis is derived from the Latin "affliction with little dragons", while the name "guinea worm" appeared after Europeans saw the disease on the Guinea coast of West Africa in the 17th century. A species similar to guinea worms causes disease in other animals. These do not appear to infect humans. It is classified as a neglected tropical disease. It is an endemic disease.