Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has signed call to action to eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis by 2021.
What is Lymphatic Filariasis?
- Lymphatic Filariasis is a parasitic infection spread by mosquitoes.
- It commonly known as elephantiasis.
- The disease is caused by three species of thread-like nematode worms, known as filariae – Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi and Brugia timori.
- The parasites develop in and then damage the human lymphatic system and associated tissues.
- It is usually contracted in childhood, often before the age of five.
- The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and specialized tissues that are essential to the maintaining the overall fluid balance and health of organs and limbs.
- They are a major component of the body’s immune defense system.
- People suffering with this disease continue to bear debilitating impact on their health, reducing their potential to work and, in the long run, limiting economic opportunities of families.
- Since the launch of the Global Program to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GPELF) by the World Health Organization in 2000, endemic countries across the world including India have adopted a twin pillar strategy.
- The Strategy includes prevention through Mass Drug Administration (MDA) using combination of 2 anti-filarial drugs (DEC and Albendazole), and, providing Morbidity Management and Disability Prevention (MMDP) services to those affected by the disease.
Accelerated Plan for Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis (APELF)
- Renewing India’s commitment towards elimination, Central Government has launched the APELF in 2018.
- As a part of intensifying efforts towards elimination, the government later rolled out IDA treatment (triple drug therpay) in a phased manner.
- As per India’s Accelerated Plan for Lymphatic Filariasis, over 4 billion treatments have been availed by over 630 million target population in endemic districts.
- India has made steady progress under the national program by reducing the infection levels in the community below the threshold level in 96 districts, which accounts for nearly 37% of the total districts.
- The challenge still persists in the remaining 160 districts that continue to sustain active transmission.
- Despite attaining high reported coverage in these districts with multiple annual rounds of MDA over the years, actual consumption of medicines remains low.
- This is mainly due to low awareness about the benefits of medicines at the community-level leading to non-adherence to treatment.