Public Health Ministry to begin triple therapy filaria programme in October

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With Guyana still lagging behind with its epidemiology coverage, the Public Health Ministry will embark on a triple therapy programme this year, beginning in October which will see persons being given about seven to nine pills to tackle Lymphatic Filariasis (LF), also called filaria.

In a newspaper advertisement published on Sunday, the Ministry, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO), announced that the Mass Drug Administration (MDA) will commence in October.

Moreover, it noted that a new drug, Ivermectin, will be introduced along with the two pills already known to the public – Diethylcarbamazine (DEC) and Albendazole.

The combination of pills, referred to as IDA, is very effective and safe, the Ministry said. More importantly, Guyana will move closer to its target of eliminating filaria with the use of these drugs. In fact, Guyana requires only two more rounds of successful MDA with this regimen.

As such, the Ministry has urged persons to drink their pills when pill distributors come around.

The new drug, Ivermectin, is a medication used to treat many types of parasitic infestations. This includes head lice, scabies, and LF.

Research shows that it is better to take the drug on an empty stomach or one to two hours after a meal.

Side effects of the drug include headache; dizziness; muscle pain; nausea; diarrhoea, swelling of hands, ankles or feet; swelling or tenderness of lymph nodes and/or itching.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that epidemiology coverage increased from 45.7 per cent in 2015 in Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara); Four (Demerara-Mahaica); and Five (Mahaica-Berbice) to 54.2 per cent in 2016 and 82 per cent in 2017 and 79 per cent in 2018 in the four targeted Regions – Three, Four, Five and 10 (Upper Demerara-Upper Berbice).

Presently, those four regions are benefiting from the free pills as these were found to be the most affected Regions during a survey conducted by the Ministry a few years ago.

At the same event, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer (DCMO), Dr Karen Campbell pointed out that nine of Guyana’s 10 Administrative Regions are plagued by the disease. These Regions, she added, have surpassed a one per cent prevalence in each.

According to the DCMO, the country’s current strategy would not be able to interrupt the transmission of LF by 2020 and so it is important for the programme to be implemented.

In fact, she said, “Our current use of DA (Diethylcarbamazine and Albendazole) would not achieve this and, therefore, we don’t really have much choice. We have to embrace IDA if we want to qualify.”