Source: Govt tackles elephantiasis, trachoma | The Herald August 1, 2016
Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter
Government has expanded mass treatment of neglected tropical diseases that cover elephantiasis and blinding trachoma, Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa has said. Elephantiasis is a parasitic infection that causes extreme swelling in the arms and legs. It is caused by the filarial worm and is transmitted from human to human via the female mosquito.
Blinding trachoma is also an infectious disease caused by a bacterium. The bacterium causes roughening of the inner surface of the eyelids. This roughening could lead to pain, breakdown of the outer surface or cornea and possibly blindness.
It can spread from one person to another through direct contact with an infected person.
In a speech read on his behalf by his deputy, Cde Aldrin Musiiwa, at a press conference held in Harare recently, Dr Parirenyatwa said Government was targeting to distribute preventive medicines to over seven million people from 39 selected districts with high prevalence of the diseases.
“This year’s mass drug administration (MDA) campaign is perculiar in that we have added two more diseases in the mass treatments which are elephantiasis and blinding trachoma,” he said.
He said the most affected provinces were Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East and Midlands provinces.
He said the blinding trachoma preventive medicines would only be distributed in Binga to cover the entire population of 143 000 with plans to scale up to other 10 endemic districts in 2017.
Previously, Government was administering preventive treatments for bilharzia and intestinal worms. Dr Parirenyatwa said unlike in bilharzia preventive treatments, treatment for elephantiasis and blinding trachoma was targeted at both adults and children in the affected districts.
For bilharzia and intestinal worm disease, Dr Parirenyatwa said Government was targeting to reach out to five million pre-school and secondary age children. He said with support from different stakeholders, over 16 million dosages were administered to children for bilharzias and intestinal worms over the past four years.
Dr Parirenyatwa called on parents regardless of religion or age to take their children for the treatments. “By doing so, you are avoiding risking future blindness, selected cancers, elephantiasis, hydrocele, anaemia, poor educational or learning performance and infertility,” he said.
The first phase of the campaign started on Monday and will run up to Wednesday next week in Manicaland, Bulawayo and Mashonaland Central provinces for bilharzia and intestinal worms.
The second phase will run from September 12-17 and it will be for elephantiasis and intestinal worms while the last phase will run from September 26 to October 1 for bilharzia only.
Speaking at the same occasion, World Health Organsation representative Dr David Okello said the MDA was an effective intervention already with proven results. Dr Okello said to have impact, a minimum coverage of at least 75 percent of the population at risk was recommended.
“When administered correctly, medicines used for large-scale treatment of bilharzia and intestinal worms are safe. It is the same treatments that are used to treat these diseases in our clinics and hospitals on a daily basis,” he said.