Citizens urged to help eradicate ‘big foot’

GINA, GUYANA, Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Residents in a number of regions across the country will benefit from a Mass Drug Administration (MDA) exercise coming on stream next month. The exercise will help in the fight towards preventing Lymphatic Filariasis, commonly known as filaria or big foot.

The Ministry of Public Health through the Vector Control Services (VCS) for neglected infectious diseases will undertake the MDA exercise aiming to eliminate filaria. This is in keeping with Guyana being a signatory to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) agreement with other countries to eliminate the neglected infectious disease by 2020.

The WHO has called for the elimination of filaria using the annual MDA strategy, touted as the most adequate method in preventing such a disease.

Dr. Fabu Moses, Head of Neglected Infectious Diseases; Vector Control Services, Ministry of Public Health

Dr. Fabu Moses, Head of Neglected Infectious Diseases; Vector Control Services, Ministry of Public Health

Head of Neglected Infectious Diseases, VCS, Dr. Fabu Moses, speaking with the Government Information Agency (GINA) said that, “This (MDA) begins on the fifth of September in Region Four and Region Ten, and on the tenth of September in Regions Three and Five. It will last for two weeks, but then we will have another part where we will be coming around to areas where we had low coverage, and we will be checking on persons again to see if they need any more clarification, why it is they didn’t take the drug, maybe they need a little more clarification on the importance of it or so, or maybe they just weren’t home.”

The areas within which the MDA exercise will be rolled out have been targeted after they have seen the highest number of reported cases in the country. Dr. Moses pointed out that there is a chance of eliminating the neglected disease, but it requires a collaborative effort from all citizens.

“It requires commitment from the country that for five years at least 85% of the population would take these tablets once a year. The tablets which I speak about are albendazole or diethylcarbamazine citrate (DEC) at pre-specified doses,” Dr. Moses added.

There is also a strategy in place for the treatment of those persons who have already been affected by filaria and diagnosed with an advanced stage of the neglected disease.

This is referred to as CARE- C – cleaning the wound, A- applying treatment, R – raising the Leg and E – exercise.

Lymphatic Filariasis is a parasitic disease caused by microscopic, thread-like worms and or roundworms. Humans are affected after being bitten by the culex mosquito and could take as long as 20 years before showing initial signs of the infection. The adult worm lives only in the human lymph system.

People with the illness can suffer from lymphedema (fluid retention and tissue swelling) and elephantiasis (gross enlargement of an area especially the limbs), and in men, swelling of the scrotum, called hydrocele.

The MDA is a strategy that came out of the World Health Assembly meeting in 2001 where all of the countries signed on to eliminating filaria by the end of 2020. This strategy sees health personnel going around to homes, government agencies, large businesses and health centres across the country, administering tablets.

Dr. Moses is encouraging persons to be prepared to cooperate with health workers who will be issuing the drugs during the period of the MDA exercise next month.