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17.02.2005 Health

Elephantiasis is a mosquito-borne disease

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Apam (C/R), Feb. 17, GNA - Elephantiasis, also known as lymphatic filariasis, transmitted through mosquito bites could be cured after a sustained treatment of about five years, health officials said on Thursday.
Tablets given for the treatment of the disease are administered to patients once a year to stop them from getting re-infected and reduce morbidity.
Continuous use of the tablets for a period of five years interrupt the infection, preventing other people from getting infected. Dr. Yankum Dadzie, Chairman of the Global Alliance to Eliminate lymphatic Filariasis (LF) said, "mosquitoes are carriers of the LF worms and when they bite a person with the disease it can be transmitted to other people.
"Seemingly harmless mosquito bites lead to LF worms invading your body to live in your lymphatic vessels. These thread-like worms, begin wreaking havoc on your body, your arms, legs, breast and genitals in men," he explained.
Dr Dadzie was explaining the causes and the surgical processes of the disease to Mr Conrad Person, Executive Director of Johnson and Johnson Company who is sponsoring the elimination of the lymphatic filariasis programme for a period of three years. Mr. Person is in the country to participate in the Advanced Trauma Operation Management programme currently going on at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.
The programme helps student surgeons to do surgery on animals to detect common injuries that occur during motor accidents. Mr Dadzie said, "lymphatic filariasis show up in men when the scrotum swells to the size of a basketball or even bigger.
"Debilitating fevers and pain may plague you. And even if you experience no outward symptoms, the parasites are damaging your lymphatic system, kidneys and immune system," he said. Dr Dadzie said there was a need to raise awareness about LF and secure additional partners and resources required for the programme to reach its successful conclusion.
He said the LF programmes collaborate with malaria, dengue fever and other mosquito borne diseases in the use of bed nets to decrease rate of infection by decreasing contact between mosquitoes and humans. He called for more support for the programme, saying, that there was the need to totally eradicate lymphatic filariasis in the country and that could be done through continuous treatment for five years. Dr Nana Kwadwo Biritwum of the Health Research Unit of the Ghana Health Service explaining the situation in the country said about half of the Ghanaian population were at risk of infection.
He said currently there were about 49 districts that had been detected as endemic areas and GHS had started giving treatment in 40 districts and would hopefully start working on the remaining districts this year.
Up to date, there are about 8,094 cases to be done, Dr Biritwum said, and assured Mr Person that with the support of funds, the cases would be treated quickly.
Stating some problems faced by the lymphatic eradication team in Ghana, Dr Biritwum said most people are not willing to volunteer by way of taking the drugs on a house-to-house campaign, but ask for incentives.
He said the lack of closely-knit communities in the country make reaching patience a bit difficult.
With the hydrocele, that is the swelling of the scrotum of men, surgery is done on patients to stops the disease, which, is most endemic in the Northern regions of Ghana and in towns and villages along the Coast.
Patients with Elephantiasis are advised to wash the affected leg with soap and water everyday to stop the leg from being re-infected. Dr Sunny Doodu Mante, Surgical Coordinator of the West African Filriasis Morbidity Project, who performed a sample test on hydrocele patience, said a new surgical method where the scrotum sack is totally removed is most efficient.
"So far about 4000 surgeries have been performed successfully, using the new surgical method," he said.
Over 120 million people are infected with the disease throughout the world, with about 40 million people incapacitated or disfigured. The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis is a private-public partnership dedicated to eliminating LF by year 2020 and decreasing its impact on those already affected.
About 80 countries affected by the disease are aware of it. Mr Person promised to give more support to the programme where necessary.

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