Schistosomiasis major health problem in Easter Visayas-A A +A
Monday, July 9, 2012
THE Department of Health (DOH) in Eastern Visayas said schistosomiasis remains a major public health problem in the region.
Agnes Cuayzon, DOH-Eastern Visayas schistosomiasis program control focal person, said more than six million people in Samar and Leyte islands are at risk of the disease.
“Schistosomiasis is endemic in four of the six provinces in the region, particularly among rice farmers and fishermen. In the Philippines, schistosomiasis is third only to malaria and tuberculosis in terms of causes of morbidity,” Cuayzon said during the kick-off ceremony of Schistosomiasis Month in Tacloban City.
Schistosomiasis is a chronic disease caused by parasitic worms called schistosoma, which are found in fresh water. People are at risk of infection due to agricultural, domestic and recreational activities, which expose them to infested water.
“The DOH adopted mass treatment as its schistosomiasis control strategy with the aim of disease elimination. Mass treatment is offered to all residents five years of age in villages with 15-percent prevalence, without the need for stool examination,” Cuayzon said.
Cuayzon added that the DOH is targeting 85 percent of the total population to achieve morbidity control in highly endemic areas in the region.
“Children between the age of about six and 15 years old who swim in infected fresh bodies of water are particularly at risk. Women who carry out household work of collecting water and washing clothes and cooking utensils are also in contact with water and more likely to become infected,” Cuayzon said.
People whose occupations involve contact with water such as fishermen, farmers and irrigation workers are more exposed to infection and should be treated as a high-risk group.
Annual mass treatment also depends largely on the availability of praziquantel, the only drug used to treat schistosomiasis.
In Eastern Visayas, the schistosomiasis control program employs mass treatment, active surveillance, surveillance of schoolchildren, transmission control and advocacy and promotion.
It is spearheaded by DOH through its Schistosomiasis Control and Research Hospital in Palo, Leyte. (Leyte Samar Daily Express)