National effort begins to eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis

…more than 90% of population is at risk

A mass drug administration will commence on Monday for the final lap of the Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination Campaign, in which Guyana will seek to completely eradicate the disease.

Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony taking the filaria pills at the launching of the national effort

During the launching ceremony on Friday, it was communicated that the rollout will span several weeks, starting with the populous Regions Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) and Four (Demerara-Mahaica). Guyana remains one of four countries in the Americas which is yet to eliminate filaria but will achieve this feat if the public takes their pills.
The World Health Organisation data shows that some 900 million people in 49 different countries are at risk of contracting filaria. As such, Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony said this requires a national effort to completely eliminate filaria, as he called for political unity in realising this objective. Faith-based organisations, municipalities, town councils, local organs and Toshaos have also been engaged on the campaign’s aim.
“More than 90 per cent of our population is at risk of this disease…Once we complete this exercise, then henceforth, nobody in Guyana should ever have to deal with filaria again. If we are able to accomplish this as a people, then that is going to be a wonderful achievement for all of us.”
The Minister added, “We are reaching out to all the political parties…This exercise is one where all of us would have to come together as one people to fight this disease and I am extremely happy that we can have political unity so that we can demonstrate to our public that there is no politics involved here. We’re all together in fighting and eliminating filaria from Guyana.”
For the campaign, training has been completed for 1400 pill distributors, 170 field officers, 20 regional coordinators and eight national supervisors spanning 138 health facilities across the country. For those persons who have already contracted filaria, he said they are working on treatment to prevent them from developing a disability.
It is recommended by the World Health Organisation to roll out a mass administration of medicines in countries seeking to eliminate filariasis completely. Guyana would have completed the first round of pills and now the last round will be administered to citizens. Once the campaign starts in February, it will end by May.
Guyanese are given three tablets; Ivermectin, Diethylcarbamazine (DEC) and Albendazole. The combination of pills is referred to as the IDA. The number of tablets varies per age, and they are not to be given to pregnant women and children below the age of two years old.
According to information from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the disease is caused by three species of thread-like nematode worms, known as filariae – Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi and Brugia timori. Male worms range from three to four centimetres in length, and female worms eight to 10 centimetres.
The worms target the lymphatic system, which is an essential component of the body’s immune system as they are essentially a network of nodes and vessels that maintain the delicate fluid balance between blood and body tissues. But when someone is infected, the male and female worms form “nests” together in this vital system. (G12)