ILOILO – The Department of Health (DOH) has declared Iloilo as a Lymphatic Filariasis Free province as a result of its successful mass drug administration since November 2008.
Iloilo was among the 16 provinces in the Philippines that the DOH recognized as Lymphatic Filariasis Free during the awarding ceremonies for Gawad Kalusugan held in SMX Convention Center in Pasay City last February 20.
The other provinces were composed of Cagayan de Oro, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Davao del Norte, Masbate, Misamis Occidental, Negros Oriental, Northern Leyte, Northern Samar, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, South Cotabato, Surigao del Sur and Western Samar.
According to a report from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Patricia Grace Trabado, the mass drug administration in Iloilo was aimed at children aged two years old and above for six consecutive years.
To determine its progress, a series of examinations – nocturnal blood survey and transmission assessment survey – were conducted last year and became the basis for the declaration.
The nocturnal blood survey was held from March to May 2014 on 1,500 residents in selected far flung villages and the transmission assessment survey was administered on July 2014 to 3,500 Grades 1 and 2 pupils in randomly selected schools here.
Through immunochromatographic tests, both examinations revealed negative presence of microfilaria in the subjects’ blood.
The World Health Organization described lymphatic filariasis, also known as elephantiasis, as a painful and profoundly disfiguring disease causing temporary or permanent disability.
It is caused by three species of thread-like nematode worms known as filariae – Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi and Brugia timori. Male worms are about 3–4 centimetres in length, and female worms 8–10 centimetres.
The male and female worms together form “nests” in the human lymphatic system, the network of nodes and vessels that maintain the delicate fluid balance between blood and body tissues. The lymphatic system is an essential component of the body’s immune system.
In the Philippines, the elimination of lymphatic filariasis started in 2001 in 44 endemic provinces, including Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan and Antique in Western Visayas.
In 2004, DOH issued an administrative order declaring the month of November as “Filariasis Mass Treatment Month” in support to the nationwide elimination program.
The said program specifically aims to reduce the prevalence rate to elimination level of <1%, to perform mass treatment, to develop filariasis disability prevention program and to continue surveillance of endemic areas five years after.