Friday, November 30, 2012

Elephantiasis or filariasis disease in Negros Occidental and Guimaras

By George M. dela Cruz

The Department of Health (DOH) in Region 6 is verifying suspected cases of elephantiasis or filariasis disease in the provinces of Negros Occidental and Guimaras.

At the Sugarland Hotel here Thursday, Ana Maria Luz Hibionada, DOH's regional coordinator for Lymphatic Filariasis Education Program, said the suspected cases are still to be validated through laboratory tests and inspection of the affected areas to confirm whether these provinces are "positive or negative of the disease."

"There are four of them being suspected as a case of elephantiasis or filariasis in Negros Occidental," Hibionada said.

The cases in Negros are in Bago City, Bacolod City (in Barangay Bata), and two other areas in southern Negros which are still under surveillance.

Except for the provinces of Negros Occidental and Guimaras, she said the rest of Panay areas are endemic to filariasis which causes "irreversible bodily deformity."

Filariasis is a parasitic disease caused by microscopic, thread-like worms which can be transmitted through a night-biting female mosquito called, Aedes poecilus, which thrive in bananas and water lilies.

An infected person is characterized with enlarged elephant-like extremities, commonly manifested in the legs and may even affect the scrotum and breast of inflicted women. The parasite penetrates the lymph nodes of the armpit, groin, and legs, Hibionada said.

The disease has three stages -- asymptomatic (without or absence of symptoms) stage; acute stage; and chronic stage. She said filariasis is controllable and can be managed through drug administration by deworming affected persons once or twice a year. Filariasis can stay in a person's lymphatic system from 5 to 15 years, or even more, she said.

Up to now, no immunization can be given or vaccines available for filariasis, Hibionada said but only through massive drug administration, as preventive measure.

"As a public health problem, filariasis is a neglected tropical disease that the government through the DOH is targeting to eliminate," Hibionada said.

The person with filariasis may exhibit psychological, social and economic problems, said Hibionada, because of the enlargement or deformity that can be traumatizing

On a larger scope, the disease penetrated 83 countries affecting at least 120 million people as it poses a big threat to 1.1 billion persons worldwide who are at risk of infection, Hibionada said. In the Philippines, it is the second leading cause of permanent disability.

First found in 1907 in the Philippines, filariasis is endemic in 44 out of 80 provinces in the country wherein 76 percent of the endemic areas belong to 4th-6th class municipalities, she said.

A total of 645,232 Filipinos are infected already and 30 million are at risk, according to a study of the University of the Philippines National Institute of Health.

Specifically, among the clinical symptoms include increase in the size of head for children, inflammation of the scrotum, fever, infection of the lymph nodes, among others.

"We are roaming around the region for a continued massive information campaign in the control and prevention of filariasis in response to the call of the government at eliminating the disease in the Philippines by 2018," Hibionada said.

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