Gov’t wraps up filaria campaign; 70% of population took pills

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Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony says his ministry has completed the final filaria mass drug administration (MDA), which began mid-February and was aimed at eradicating the disease from Guyana.

Minister Anthony made this announcement during his COVID-19 update on Tuesday.

He said an overall assessment shows a greater percentage of the population being administered the IDA pills: Ivermectin (IVM), Diethylcarbamazine (DEC) and Albendazole (ALB).

“About 70 per cent of the population would have received the filaria pills. We were aiming to get at 65 per cent so we would have exceeded it, so they are now mopping up and doing the numbers, so I think it would even be a little bit higher.

“I want to thank everyone who has been involved in this campaign. I think they did a fabulous job of going out reaching out to people, encouraging them to take their tablets, and now that they have taken the tablets, we have been able to accomplish this feat,” he said.

Minister Anthony said the next step in this process is for the numbers to be finalised and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO) to be invited to verify them.

“Once they are satisfied and they can verify the numbers that we currently have, then they would certify Guyana as being free from filaria.  That’s a good achievement because we have been battling with filaria for many, many decades now, and to be able to eliminate filaria from Guyana is a real feat.”

The Minister said the programme has formally come to an end and those medicines will no longer be available. However, if there is an urgent need, people who missed the opportunity to take the IDA pills could contact the Ministry’s Vector Control Unit for guidance and treatment.

Filaria is transmitted from person to person through a mosquito bite. It has debilitating long-term effects such as chronic swelling or elephantiasis. This can affect the legs, arms, scrotum, vulva, and breasts. In 2000, the WHO launched its Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis. It had set 2020 as the target date but this was revised to 2021 because of COVID-19. (DPI)

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