Guyanese express worry over contracting filaria as prevention programme wraps up

Filaria pill distribution process ongoing
File photo: Filaria pill distribution process has officially ended for the year

Hundreds of Guyanese across the country have over the past few days complained of their homes and even businesses not being visited by the Public Health Ministry officials who are responsible for the distribution of Filaria prevention pills.

Since the launch of this year’s campaign a host of sensitization messages were being aired on national television and even radio stations in a bid to get Guyanese more informed on the benefits of drinking their pills.

However, as persons were gearing up to take their tablets to prevent themselves from being affected by Lymphatic filariasis also called filaria, which is a mosquito borne disease that has no signs during the first 10 years in the life of an infected person, they had no access to the pills.

A number of persons have complained of being afraid of becoming infected by the disease which works by affecting an individual’s lymphatic glands, causing the legs, breasts and even their private parts to swell. The disease is also refereed to as “big foot”.

It was related to this publication on Friday afternoon by the National Coordinator for Neglected Infectious Diseases, Fabu Moses-Stuart that this year’s Mass Drug Administration (MDA) campaign has already wrapped up.

In fact she said that the other campaign would be until next year.

However, a number of persons have since come forward saying that their homes and even businesses were not visited by the officials who were supposed to be distributing the pills in four administrative Regions including; Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara), Four (Demerara-Mahaica), Five (Mahaica-Berbice) and 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) as these happen to be the most affected Regions, as was found in a survey conducted by the Ministry a few years ago.

During this year’s campaign, persons from the aforementioned regions received the two free pills, the albendazole and diethylcarbamazine citrate (DEC).

The number of tablets varied as per age, and the tablets were not supposed to be given to pregnant women and children below two years old. It is said that a person requires five annual doses of the pills before they become immune to the mosquito-borne disease.

Most of the complaints received seem to be rooted on the West Coast of Demerara.

One resident of Pouderoyen, West Bank Demerara argued that during last year’s MDA exercise the pill distributors visited her home and ensured that they left tablets for everyone in the home, meanwhile this year their home was not even visited.

Another resident over at De Kinderen, West Coast Demerara said her entire family is afraid of contracting the disease and were in fact anxiously awaiting for their area to be visited, which was not done.

That concerned citizen who works in Georgetown said that while she may not have been at home, her mother is always there.

On the other hand, a few businesses who requested not to be named, in Georgetown even complained that their employees could not take their pills as those businesses were not visited by the pill distributors.

These concerns have surfaced this year when the subject Minister, Volda Lawrence has noted that more money is being spent to ensure a better coverage.

This is as over US $1M is being used on this year’s campaign.

Lawrence said during a previous interview that, “This year we’re on that push to ensure that we can eradicate filaria from Guyana. It’s a big project for the Ministry of Public Health, we believe that we can do it and we have invested more money with the help of our partners PAHO/WHO (Pan American Organisation/World Health Organisation).”

It was in the same breath that the subject Minister sought to explain how the additional money was being spent. According to her, “We have had quite a lot of educational pieces, educating people so that persons wouldn’t get caught up with the rumours and people (who are) just saying things without evidence.”

The Minister had reported that so far the MDA programme, which was launched on October 5, has been successful as locals were more interested in taking the pills to prevent the dreaded disease from affecting them.



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