FILARIASIS awareness month is observed every November according to the Department of Health (DOH) pursuant to Executive Order No. 369 of 2004.
Although relatively old public health concern but nevertheless equally present and persistent in the Philippines, filariasis like dengue and malaria, is caused by a mosquito. The kind of mosquito which transmits the disease is called Aedes poecilius that carries the parasite Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi or Brugia timori.
The Center for Disease and Control (CDC) informs that Brugia malayi and Brugia timori are most common in Aisa.
[Lymphatic] Filariasis, is a chronic parasitic infection caused by parasites that live inside the lymphatics.
As a chronic condition, its development takes time to incubate. As a matter of fact, literatures support that the life span of the adult parasites is between 10 to 40 years.
Moreover, the thread-like parasitic filarial worms lodge in the nodes and vessels of the lymphatic system.
Furthermore, In the Philippines, over 25 million people live in endemic areas for this disease, adds Public Health literatures.
According to epidemiologic statistics, Aedes poecilius is a home to 45 provinces in the country with the highest prevalence of Filariasis in Regions V, VIII, XI and CARAGA.
On the other hand, the same statistical data claim that Cebu has the lowest rate ever recorded in history.
Some literatures call this parasitic disease as Elephantiasis due to the abnormal enlargement and disfigurement it causes on the affected body part.
As the term lymphatic applies, the lymphatic system is part of the circulatory system that carry clear fluids called lymph towards the heart.
Health experts explain that the lymphatic system plays an important part of the immune system on top of its primary function of maintaining fluid balance to the circulatory system.
Meanwhile, CDC explains that as this infection spreads from person to person by mosquito bites, the adult worm lives in the human lymph vessels, mates, and produces millions of microscopic worms, also known as microfilariae.
And then, these Microfilariae circulate in the person's blood and infect the mosquito. In the event that this infected mosquito bites another person, the latter becomes infected.
Furthermore, these Microfilariae grow and develop in the mosquito.
When the mosquito bites another person, the larval worms pass from the mosquito into the human skin, and travel to the lymph vessels, it points out.
CDC maintains that these parasites grow into adult worms and that the entire process takes six months or more.
An adult worm lives for about five to seven years and that the adult worms mate and release millions of microfilariae into the blood.
Ultimately, People with microfilariae in their blood can serve as a source of infection to others, it emphasizes.
On the other hand, the Public Health Nursing in the Philippines shares that the following are some of the manifestations of lymphatic filariasis: hydrocele ( swelling of scrotum); lymphedema (temporary swelling of upper and lower extremities); and elephantiasis (enlargement and thickening of the skin of the lower and upper extremities, scrotum and breast).
It informs that laboratory exams that confirm such diagnosis by the doctor include Nocturnal blood exam (blood are taken from the patient after 8 p.m.) and Immunochromatographic test (a rapid antigen test done at daytime).
The World Health Organization (WHO) shares that treatment for Filariasis may include anti-filarial drugs (Diethylcarbamazine Citrate or DEC) and surgery when necessary. Unfortunately, fever has been reported as the most common side effect of this medication.
As part of the 2004 Executive Order No. 369, the National Filariasis Control Programs goal was shifted from control to elimination of Filariasis devoting the month of November for mass treatment of Filariasis among affected communities.
As a mass-based program, the susceptible population is given DEC as the dosage of 6 mg per kg of body weight taken as a single dose.
For WHO, lymphatic Filariasis afflicts over 25 Million men with genital disease.
The Public Health Nursing suggests the following preventive measures in protecting individuals and families in endemic areas: use of mosquito nets; use of long sleeves, pant and socks; application of insect repellents; screening of houses; and health education.
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Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on November 15, 2017.