ELEPHANTIASIS: LYMPHATIC FILARIASIS IS A LEADING CAUSE OF PERMANENT AND LONG-TERM DISABILITY
Leading Case of Disability
A mosquito-borne disease, lymphatic filariasis is a leading cause of permanent and long-term disability worldwide, with 120 million people infected and 1.1 billion at risk of infection. In its severest form, lymphatic filariasis leads to elephantiasis, a crippling condition in which the limbs often are grotesquely swollen or enlarged.
In communities endemic for this disease, as many as 10 percent of women can be affected with swollen limbs, and 50 percent of men can suffer from mutilating disease of the legs and genitals. These conditions have a devastating effect on the quality of life of victims, impacting them not only physically but also emotionally and economically.Millions of Treatments Provided
The drug Mectizan®, donated by Merck and used to fight river blindness, also helps prevent lymphatic filariasis when combined with the medicine albendazole, donated by GlaxoSmithKline. Distribution of long-lasting insecticidal bed nets especially helps to protect pregnant women and children who cannot take drug treatment and has the added benefit of helping to protect against other mosquito-borne diseases like malaria.
As a result of Carter Center-assisted efforts in Nigeria since 1998, nearly 33 million treatments have been provided in program areas as of 2012 (provisional), and the burden of this disfiguring disease has been dramatically reduced.
And in 2010, the program in Nigeria announced a major breakthrough when transmission of lymphatic filariasis was halted in 10 of the 30 local government areas where the Center works. This important achievement demonstrated that elimination is possible in the nation, setting a major precedent for other parts of Africa struggling with lymphatic filariasis.
To further pioneer integration opportunities and reach communities more efficiently, The Carter Center and Nigerian health officials currently integrate lymphatic filariasis, malaria, river blindness, and sometimes schistosomiasis activities in Plateau and Nasarawa states.
Disease Program Integration
And following an extensive mapping project in the highly endemic Gambella Region of Ethiopia in 2009, The Carter Center has begun integrating lymphatic filariasis mass drug administration with river blindness and malaria control. The success of the joint programs has demonstrated that one community-based health education and drug distribution system can support the control and elimination of multiple diseases.