Filaria prevention pills distribution to start February

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Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony is encouraging the public to take the final dose of medication to safeguard themselves from Lymphatic Filariasis (filaria), when distribution starts in February.

This exercise would be the final in the Mass Drug Administration (MDA) programme to suppress filaria, which started in Guyana in October 2019.

On Monday, Dr. Anthony said a team from the Ministry would be fanning out along the coastal regions and then proceeding into the interior to distribute the pills.

“I think that we will be able to reach the 70 per cent of persons that we are targeting. The Ministry, the team working on this particular project have spent a lot of time in terms of planning and rolling out that plan.

Once 70 per cent of the population has been covered, Guyana would be eligible for certification from the World Health Organization that filaria has been eliminated here.

“That is something we are aiming for and for us to achieve elimination, we really need people to take the tablets. I am urging persons to assist us in doing so. It is for your health. It is going to protect you.

“It’s going to prevent you from getting filaria or what is known as ‘big foot’ and I think that is an important thing that we can actually eliminate this disease from our country. So, if we achieve that it will be one less disease we have to worry about,” the Minister said.

With regard to students, Dr. Anthony said Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand has been engaged and they have jointly signed a form requesting parents’ consent to have their children take the pills when the distributing teams visit schools.

Speaking on strategies for the distribution, Minister Anthony said house-to-house is one method which could be employed as it would allow the teams to interact with residents about the importance of inoculating themselves. It would also allow the Ministry to address any fears or concerns residents may have about taking the pills.

Another strategy the Ministry could employ is to engage influencers in communities to encourage residents to take the pills.

“I am sure that with their influence and cooperation we will be reaching lots of people and hopefully we can get them to take the tablets,” Dr. Anthony said.

The distribution exercises would be done in keeping with the gazetted COVID-19 precautionary measures, the Minister said.

The last distribution exercise was held in December 2019. The 2020 distribution was postponed to February.

Persons would be required to take three pills: Ivermectin (IVM), Diethylcarbamazine (DEC) and Albendazole (ALB), collectively known as IDA.

Some of the benefits of the IDA include: –

Ivermectin – Permanently sterilises the adult worms that causes lymphatic filariasis; it is also effective against worms, scabies and lice.

Diethylcarbamazine – kills young worms.

Albendazole –sterilises adult worms (hindering the reproductive cycle); it is also effective against intestinal worms.

Filaria pills are not for everyone. You are not required to take the pills if you are pregnant, suspected to be pregnant, younger than two years old, below 90cm in height and seriously ill (cannot do basic daily tasks without assistance).

For more information the Ministry of Health can be contacted on 227-7986 or persons can send messages to their Facebook page.