Mass treatment for Lymphatic Filariasis planned for Samoa

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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The Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) is planning a countrywide mass treatment for Lymphatic Filariasis starting on August 17, 2018.

The undertaking is expected to last four weeks and will be treated according to Enumeration Regions. 

Each region will be given one week for treatment consecutively.  This is part of the M.O.H’s ongoing efforts to eliminate lymphatic filariasis as a public health dilemma in Samoa.

The move to orchestrate nationwide treatments comes after the recommendation from the World Health Organization as well as results of a health survey in 2017. 

The survey was conducted on school children from Year 1 and Year 2 to determine whether the transmission of the disease still existed. The results showed that indeed the transmissions were ongoing.

According to information released by the M.O.H., Lymphatic filariasis or Mumu Tutupa in Samoan is an infection that occurs when filarial worms are spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Infection is usually acquired in childhood causing hidden damage to the blood vessels.

Mosquitoes become infected when they bite a human that is infected with microfilariae (baby worms). 

When these infected mosquitoes bite people, the worms are placed on the skin where they can enter the human body. 

The worms then move or migrate to the blood vessels (lymphatic vessels) where they develop into adult worms, thus continuing a cycle of transmission.

The physical signs of the disease are hand and feet disfigurement. 

As well as disfigurements, people can also suffer from mental, social and financial losses contributing to stigma and poverty.

Mass treatment is planned to commence in Savaii between August 14-19 and then move to North West Upolu from August 20-26, with the rest of Upolu being treated from 27th August.

M.O.H. and the Department of Health in American Samoa held a joint plan discussion on Friday to provide updates on progress preparation for the mass treatments later in the year. 

Mass treatment within the two countries will take place around the same time because of the frequency of travel between the two nations.

Samoa was one of the very first countries to start mass treatments for lymphatic filariasis but have yet to reach elimination status. The Pacific nations that have reached elimination status are Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Niue, Tonga and Vanuatu.

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