Public Health Ministry wants elephantiasis eradicated

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The Ministry of Public Health, wants to eradicate lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as elephantiasis as Guyana continues to make steady progress towards the elimination of the disease through the Mass Drug Administration (MDA) programme organized and executed by the Vector Control Services Unit of the Ministry of Public Health, with support from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO)/ World Health Organisation (WHO).

elephantiasislymphatic filariasis is a tropical disease. Infection occurs when filarial parasites are transmitted to humans through mosquitos. The parasite then grows into an adult worm that lives in the lymphatic system of humans and its presence is marked by severe swelling in the legs, arms and genitals.

A review meeting, that saw the participation of stakeholders, to assess the MDA activities of 2016 and to strategically plan for 2017 was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday this week at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre. This meeting according to the Public Health Ministry was held in keeping with its plan to scale up national efforts to control and eliminate the disease in Guyana.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of this forum, Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr Karen Cummings observed that since Guyana launched this programme in 2003, many Guyanese have benefited in remarkable ways, resulting in a significant reduction of new cases of Lymphatic Filariasis in the country.

The Minister also noted that the MDA review meeting came at an opportune time as the Ministry remains resolutely determined to eradicate lymphatic filariasis in Guyana. “Eradicating this disease in Guyana is a paramount priority of the Ministry of Public Health. Therefore, it is very important that shared interventions such as health education, community based action, distribution of long-lasting insecticidal bed nets, and mass drug administration form part of the affirmative action to be taken,” the Minister said.

Guyana’s efforts to eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis led the Government of Guyana through the Public Health Ministry to embark on the Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination Programme in 1999 with a goal of interrupting transmission of W. Bancrofti (human parasitic roundworm that is the major cause of lymphatic filariasis) and reducing the disease burden to below 1 per cent by the year 2020.  Initial activities to attain this goal began in 2003 with the countrywide programme promoting the use of salt fortified with Diethylcarbamazine (DEC).

Following the conclusion of the two-day meeting, it is expected that even more creative ways will be generated to deal with this debilitating disease.

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