Out of the 31 districts in Telangana, the lymphatic filariasis disease is endemic in 14. In 2020, the state recorded 66,394 lymphoedema and 1,329 hydrocele cases across the endemic districts. In an attempt to eliminate filariasis, the state government has undertaken a Mass Drug Administration (MDA) campaign from July 15 to 17. The drive has been undertaken in Komaram Bheem Asifabad, Khammam, Mancherial, Medak, Sangareddy, Siddipet, Nalgonda, Suryapet, Yadadri, Nirmal, Jangaon, Mahbubabad, Warangal Urban and Warangal Rural.
Filariasis is a disabling disease that is transmitted by infected mosquitoes. Usually acquired in childhood, it damages the lymphatic system, and if left untreated, causes abnormal enlargement of body parts. Lymphoedema causes a localised swelling in the body, usually in the limbs, due to an abnormal accumulation of lymph while hydrocele is a condition in which a swelling occurs in the scrotum due to fluid accumulation. In both these conditions, patients struggle to carry out day-to-day activities. If that wasnâ€™t painful enough, the stigma attached to the medical condition makes it even more difficult for the patients.
MDA is an annual attempt to administer free anti-filarial drugs to the people in districts where the disease is endemic. As part of MDA, health workers go door-to-door administering the drugs. The drug is not administered to children below 2 years, pregnant women, and people suffering from other serious illnesses.
Telangana health officials are hoping to eliminate filariasis by the end of 2021. Speaking about the MDA campaign, Dr Amar Singh Naik, Additional Director and State Programme Officer, Telangana said, â€śMDA is a critical strategy under the national Lymphatic Filariasis elimination programme. Taking the anti-filarial drug will curtail transmission of the disease in the community. All 14 districts have carried out rigorous preparatory work, including training of healthcare workers (drug administrators) and social mobilisation activities. We aim to ensure maximum coverage and community compliance of the anti-filarial drugs.â€ť
Public awareness campaigns
It is estimated that 1.2 crore people will be administered the drug as part of the campaign. Apart from preventing filariasis, the administered drug also helps treat infections caused by intestinal worms. Eliminating worms improves nutrient absorption, and physical and cognitive development in children.
â€śIf some people consume the drug while others do not, then the whole community remains at risk for filariasis. I appeal to all communities in the endemic areas to consume the drug under the supervision of the drug administrators and motivate others to do the same,â€ť added Dr Naik.
An additional challenge that the Health Department faces this year is to carry out the campaign amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. It is natural for people to be worried about taking the drug. However, the department officials are ensuring hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene and following all other COVID-19 protocols.
To tackle vector-borne diseases, the Telangana government has directed district collectors to conduct district coordination meetings. They have identified at-risk areas and larvicide spraying has already commenced in high-risk tribal areas. Rapid diagnostic test (RDT) kits for malaria, mosquito nets and larvicides are also being distributed.