Govt to expand Filariasis control programme

Kathmandu, November 26:

The government is expanding the Mass Drug Administration (MDA) for Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) in six additional districts next year with a view to eliminating the disease from the country

by 2020. The six districts where the plan will be launched are Kapilvastu, Bara, Rautahat, Sarlahi, Dhadhing and Nuwakot. “The programme will gain speed from next year as LF has to be eliminated from the country,” Dr Shankher Bahadur Shrestha, senior medical officer at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD) told this daily. Dr Shrestha said the elimination of the disease has taken a back seat as the government has been giving priority to those diseases that cause morbidity and high mortality rate.

“Moreover, due to budget constraints, the programme has not gained momentum,” he said.

All people above two years have been administered the drug in the affected areas for a period of five years. “Earlier, it was difficult to take blood from patients only between 10 pm to 2 am. But now, the tests can be done with ease with a new methodology,” he said. The programme was first launched in Parsa district in 2003 and it covered 5 lakh of the population.

It was later taken to two more districts - Makwanpur and Chitwan - in 2004 and Nawalparasi and Rupendhehi in 2005. The programme has covered 3 million people living in five districts. The country initiated the Mass Drug Administration (MDA) under a programme to eliminate LF as a public health problem within 2020.

As per the plan, at least two drug regimens - Albendazole plus Diethylcarbazaine (DEC) — have to be administered once a year for a period of five years to check the transmission. Dr Shrestha said the Department of Health Services has trained 12,000 village health workers for the programme. The total population covered in the three districts, including Parsa, was 15,41,200. Of the 14,51,899 eligible people, 12,58,113 were given the anti-filarial drugs, ie 86.65 per cent of the targeted people. According to the ‘Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination programme in Nepal 2004,’ epidemiological sample survey carried out in 37 districts in 2001 by Immuno Chroma Tography (ICT) card test method revealed that 50 out of the 75 districts in the country have been identified as endemic to LF. Out of the 25 remaining districts, 13 hilly districts are doubtful, hence surveillance needs to be done. The remaining 12 districts are mountainous districts which are considered to be non-endemic.