Fighting the war against elephantiasis must continue unabated

26Feb 2019
The Guardian
Fighting the war against elephantiasis must continue unabated

One-fifth of the world's population is said to be at risk from lymphatic filariasis, a painful and disfiguring disease that can wreck lives and cause sufferers to be shunned by society. Also known as elephantiasis, it enters the body via microscopic worms and causes severe swelling of the limbs, -

breasts and genitals.


It  is a disease spread by mosquitoes. Prevention may be possible by: avoiding mosquitoes or taking precautions to reduce the risk for mosquito bites.

You may not know you have elephantiasis until you notice the swelling. Not only will those body parts begin to look bulky and lumpy with stiff, tough skin, there is also pain in the swollen area. Elephantiasis, also known as lymphatic filariasis, is a very rare condition that’s spread by mosquitoes.

The common name is often used because if you have it, your arms and legs can swell and become much bigger than they should be. Your sex organs and breasts may also swell up. The affected skin can thicken and harden to look something like an elephant’s skin.

It’s more common to people who live in tropical or subtropical areas.Usually, to get elephantiasis, you would have to be bitten by a lot of mosquitoes over a long time, in a country where certain types of roundworms are known to exist.

It starts when mosquitoes infected with the roundworm larvae bite you. The tiny larvae survive in your bloodstream and grow. They finish maturing in your lymph system. They can live there for years and cause a lot of damage to your lymph system. This is what causes the swelling.




Last year a vast immunisation drive was launched to control the spread of what experts call neglected tropical diseases, that is, in comparison with more common diseases on which the United Nations system, especially the World Health Organization (WHO) has continually battled..


Two elements stand out in what appears to brighten up prospects for a more successful campaign this time around, namely improved communications, and then also an improved governance atmosphere. The communications part is itself divided in two, namely physical infrastructure like availability of hospitals or health centres, as well as passable roads, discounting unpredictable rains, even torrents of the same in the coming weeks..


One can’t say this reflex is altogether ended but certainly it has lost more than its front teeth, even the molars are shaking.  There is a greater sense of duty when it comes to putting into effect government directives, and that should help to make a difference after Vice President Samia Suluhu  Hassan  launched it.


With improved communication facilities, more people can be reached if it those who need actual medical attention for any such situation, and even if local officials will not be able to talk  with each patient, there is a close relative they may be able to reach. The situation on the ground in relation to the campaign is daunting, for UN statistics show that our level of human development, the quality of life at things like life expectancy or freedom from the burden of disease, even effective literacy is still quite low. The country is endemic to most neglected tropical diseases, though habit often makes those diseases typical of specific areas, where they are concentrated. Lymphatic filariasis is for instance more common in coastal zones, blindness more visible in the central zone, while decaying or brown teeth is highland problem, and others.


Then there are diseases communicated between men and animals or those arising from consuming animal products, especially meat, which again depend on a case basis, if meat wasn’t properly inspected before sale. This situation leads for that matter to systematic problems and cancer situations, where a non-neglected problem of cancer arises from neglected disease prone situations. It is daunting.