INDIA—Professor S P Singh Baghel, Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, has launched the first phase of the biannual Nationwide Mass Drug Administration (MDA) campaign to eradicate Lymphatic Filariasis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the mosquito-borne filarial nematodes Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi, and B. timori cause lymphatic filariasis (LF), with W. bancrofti accounting for an estimated 90% of LF cases.

MDA entails providing an annual dose of medicines to the entire at-risk population. The medicines used have a limited effect on adult parasites but effectively reduce the density of microfilariae in the bloodstream and prevent parasite transfer to mosquitoes.

Lymphatic filariasis damages the lymphatic system and can cause aberrant body expansion, resulting in discomfort, severe disability, and social stigma.

Data from the WHO indicate that over 882 million individuals in 44 countries are still at risk of lymphatic filariasis and require preventative treatment to stop the parasitic infection from spreading.

Lymphatic filariasis can be eradicated by preventing the spread of infection with preventive chemotherapy using safe medication combinations that are repeated annually.

Since 2000, more than 9 billion treatments have been administered to prevent the spread of disease by providing free preventive drugs to inhabitants in affected areas.

According to Baghel, the nationwide campaign effort will reach 92 districts in 11 states over the next two weeks, with India committed to eradicating lymphatic filariasis by 2027, three years ahead of the global goal.

Eradicating lymphatic filariasis involves treating periods of adenolymphangitis (ADL), advising on easy lymphoedema management methods, performing hydrocele surgery, and treating infection, according to WHO.

He also emphasized India’s resilience against severe diseases by highlighting earlier victories in tuberculosis (TB) elimination and efforts in combating Kala-Azar.

With this new campaign, Baghel is confident of the possibility of huge success, pushing further efforts to surpass last year’s coverage rate of 82.5% and achieve more than 95% coverage of the eligible population.

According to him, there is a need to have a more mission-oriented strategy that will emphasise social mobilization and active community participation to ensure widespread awareness.

He finished by urging for collaboration with key agencies, including Panchayati Raj, education, rural development, tribal affairs, urban bodies, and medical colleges, to transform the campaign into a grassroots movement.

As of 2018, 51 million people have been affected, a 74% decrease since the launch of WHO’s Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis in 2000.

740 million people no longer require preventive chemotherapy as a result of successful WHO implementation techniques.

A recommended package of care can alleviate suffering and prevent future disability in patients suffering from lymphatic filariasis.

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