Topic of the Day - Lymphatic Filariasis

Diseases and their prevention are important for the UPSC exam. They are covered under the general science and health segments of the UPSC syllabus. In this article, you can read about the parasitic disease Lymphatic Filariasis.

Lymphatic Filariasis also called elephantiasis is a vector-borne disease, spread by the bite of mosquitoes and black flies. It is a parasitic disease caused by filial worms (parasitic worms). In the human body, the disease parasite is acquired during childhood causing gradual damage in the lymphatic system. The larvae of the filial worms can live in the human body without showing any symptoms for up to 8 years.

Filariasis vector

When the mosquitoes bite human beings, the larva gets deposited into the skin. These worms mature into adults and breed, causing damage to the lymph system. The microfilariae (baby worms) then enter into the bloodstream. When the mosquito bites an infected human being it carries the parasite which matures into larvae inside the mosquito.

Filariasis Symptoms

Lymphatic Filariasis causes severe swelling in knees, legs, arms, and genitals. This could lead to disability and disfigurement.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that about 1 billion people in 54 countries are at risk of developing the disease. Bangladesh, Nigeria, Indonesia, and India have 70% of the disease burden. India alone accounts for 40% of the world’s disease burden with about 500 million people at risk of contracting the disease. About 31 million microfilaraemics and 23 million symptomatic filariasis cases have been recorded.

Measures taken by the Indian government to eradicate the disease

The National Filaria control programme was launched in 1995 with the objective of training personnel to implement the program, undertake control measures in which the disease is endemic and delimit the problem.

Since 2004, the government has undertaken mass administration of the drug (preventive medication) to the entire population in the areas where the disease is endemic whether or not they show symptoms of Filariasis. The Mass Drug Administration is being carried out as a part of the “Filariasis Free India” programme. Under the programme, the entire population is being administered excluding terminally ill individuals, pregnant women, and children below the age of 2 years.

The data published by the Ministry of Health and Family welfare shows a drop in the Microfilaria rate in 2015 as compared to 2014.

Lymphatic Filariasis Treatment

Although there are drugs available to treat infected people, they are not a complete cure. The disease, sometimes, can be a lifelong ailment. The best way to overcome this disease is to prevent it from occurring. The best prevention method is to avoid mosquito bites through personal protection measures. Regular blood examinations should also be done in disease-prone areas.

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