DOH hopes to declare Oro as filariasis-free by 2012

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Friday, September 2, 2011

THE Department of Health (DOH) is hoping to declare Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Occidental as filariasis-free by next year.

Dr. Jaime Bernadas, DOH Northern Mindanao director, said this is the fifth year that the Mass Drug Administration (MDA) has been done to persons living in endemic areas in Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Occidental and Misamis Oriental to prevent them from getting infected with filariasis.

Filariasis, also known as elephantiasis, is a parasitic disease caused by filarial worms that are transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Infected persons suffer swelling of the legs, arms and other parts of the body.


Bernadas said MDA focuses on distributing free medicines to persons in endemic areas.

The MDA is a strategy introduced by non-government organization Coalition for the Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis (CELF) to interrupt transmission of infection by administering two oral drugs once a year to people living in endemic areas.

In 2009, the MDA coverage rate for Cagayan de Oro was 63 percent while Misamis Occidental had 82.4 percent and Misamis Oriental, 54.2 percent.

“Bukidnon was the first to declare filaria-free but we still maintain our activities there and we are monitoring any possible occurrence of the disease. Hopefully, Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Occidental would be declared filarial-free next year,” Bernadas said.

He said the declaration of Misamis Oriental as filaria-free might be delayed due to some problems in "campaign and education."

"We have problems with some of the residents in terms of acceptance in taking the medicine due to lack of education," Bernadas said.

With this, Bernadas is calling the cooperation of everyone to make the MDA an effective tool in preventing filariasis.

On Thursday, officials from DOH, CELF, World Health Organization (WHO), National Center for Disease Prevention and Control (NCDPC), drug companies and other stakeholders held the 3rd National Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination Forum in Cagayan de Oro.

Among those who attended the forum are Dr. Galvez Tan, chairperson of CELF-Philippines; Dr. Jeffrey Hii, WHO adviser; Dr. Lilibeth David, Director IV of DOH-NCDPC; Dr. Leda M. Hernandez, division chief of NCDPC; Lourdes Desiree Cembrano, VP for Government and External/Public affairs of GlaxoSmithKline; and representatives from the Dr. Jose Rizal School of Medicine of Xavier University.

Dr. Hii said filariasis is much easy to eliminate than malaria and dengue.

The CELF is assisting the government in eliminating filariasis in the Philippines and helps in interrupting the transmission of the disease through the MDA, social mobilization and advocacy, morbidity control, monitoring and surveillance, and research.

The coalition is doing health education and promotion activities by facilitating seminars and workshop, producing leaflets and brochures and hosting local television and radio, ads and conducting interviews about filariasis.

Among the vital components of MDA are training of volunteers, the alleviation of adverse effects through the provision of supportive medication and the promotion of MDA awareness by organizing activities in celebration of the Lymphatic Filariasis Month.

Filariasis can be prevented through the oral administration of medicines called Diethylcarbamazine citrate.

As of present, GlaxoSmithKline is producing a medicine called Albendazole to help prevent the spread of filariasis.

“Our campaign is for mass treatment of individuals, especially in endemic areas. We target to completely eradicate filariasis in the country by 2016,” said Tan.

The CELF is also urging the public to maintain a clean environment to prevent them from getting infected with the disease.

In case a person lives in an endemic area, the coalition recommends for that person to undergo blood tests for possible trace of filariasis.

Currently, there are 44 endemic provinces in the country, nine of which already reached elimination level while six are under evaluation and one province is not doing any mass treatment since the presence of filaria is low.

Candidates for selective treatments are those areas where the micro filarial rate is below one percent while those areas with a micro filarial rate of one percent and above will undergo the MDA.

In 2014, the Philippines will host a meeting for the Global Alliance of Elimination of Lymphatic Disease.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 02, 2011.

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