‘Region 12 filariasis-free by 2018’

DOH-GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 June) — Health authorities in Region 12 are targeting to fully eliminate the remaining cases of the filariasis disease in the provinces of Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat within the next four years to pave the way for the declaration of the entire region as filariasis-free.

Dr. Teogenes Baluma, Department of Health (DOH) Region 12 director, said Wednesday the anti-filariasis initiatives in the two provinces are currently gaining ground and more enhanced efforts were underway to ensure the total elimination of the disease by 2018.

“We’re targeting that all provinces in the region will be filariasis-free by 2018. Sarangani Province can achieve this goal even before 2018,” Baluma said in a statement.

Region 12, which is also known as the Soccsksargen Region, comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

The DOH declared the entire South Cotabato province as filariasis-free in November last year after the area recorded a nearly zero prevalence rate of the disease since 2012.

In 2011, North Cotabato was declared by the agency as the first filariasis-free province in the region.

According to the World Health Organization, filariasis is an infection caused by parasitic worms Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi or B. timori.

These parasites are transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito and develop into adult worms in the lymphatic vessels, causing severe damage and swelling (lymphoedema).

Elephantiasis, which is exhibited by painful, disfiguring swelling of the legs and genital organs, is a classic sign of late-stage disease.

In a consultation workshop on the DOH’s National Filariasis Elimination Program here, Baluma said they have stepped up their mass drug administration (MDA) initiatives in Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat to control the possible emergence of the disease.

He said they are set to conduct MDA activities among pupils and students in public and private schools in the area.

“The disease can easily be treated and eventually eliminated as there are already available medicines for them. So there’s no reason for us not to achieve our goal,” he said.

Royfrextopher Boholst, DOH-12’s filariasis coordinator, said they have scheduled the conduct of MDA activities in Sarangani next month.

As part of the program, he said MDA is conducted in target areas every year within a five-year period.

After the last MDA, a transmission assessment survey (TAS) will be conducted by the DOH to determine its impact, he said.

Boholst said a province may be declared as filariasis-free if its micro-filaria rate goes down to less than one percent.

“So far, the micro-filaria in five of Sarangani’s seven municipalities is already less than one percent so there is a big possibility for Sarangani to be declared as filariasis-free before 2018,” he added. (MindaNews)