Health chief warns of lymphatic filariasis

By Alexander Rheeney 18 September 2023, 10:08PM

Samoa's Health Director-General has warned of the dangers of lymphatic filariasis, which is a chronic disease caused by filarial worms living in infected people’s blood and lymphatic vessels.

A nationwide mass administration of lymphatic filariasis drugs got underway last Saturday as the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) began to administer the drugs.

Samoa's Health Director-General, Aiono Dr. Alec Ekeroma said in a joint statement issued with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) last Saturday, that people can get infected without them knowing it.

“So, you can have this infection without actually knowing that you have it until it is too late," said Aiono. "This is a serious concern to the health authorities."

Samoa has been making efforts for several years including conducting the mass drug administration to eliminate this disease from its shores. However, despite these efforts, the disease is still circulating among the population. The last blood surveys in Samoa in 2017 and 2018 showed that the infection was widespread. 

According to the joint statement, Samoa has a long history of suffering from lymphatic filariasis which is a chronic disease caused by filarial worms living in affected people’s blood and lymphatic vessels. It is spread by mosquitoes. The affected people can progress to develop permanent swelling of limbs, breasts and genitals with significant disfiguration. 

The WHO Representative to Samoa, Dr. Kim Dickson spoke of the significance of the mass administering of the drugs.

"This is the second year that Samoa is implementing this new strategy with mass administration of three anti-parasitic drugs that together can kill these worms more effectively, stop transmission and bring Samoa closer to achieving elimination goals," he said.

The treatment will be given to everyone aged 2 and above excluding pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers with babies less than 7 days old, and those who are seriously ill and are admitted to a hospital or bedridden at home, according to Tagaloa Dr. Robert Thomsen, Deputy Director General for Health.

The M.O.H. has been working closely with the Ministry of Women, Community, and Social Development to rally together the community in preparation for the Lymphatic Filariasis - Mass Drug Administration. 

The Minister said it would not be able to carry this out without the support of the village communities, Sui o le Malo, Sui o Nu’u, Sui Tamaitai o Nuu, other government ministries, non-governmental organisations and the various partners contributing to making this campaign a success. The mass drug administration will be carried out from 16-24 September 2023.

By Alexander Rheeney 18 September 2023, 10:08PM
Samoa Observer

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