2nd May, 2002
Ministry of Health & family Welfare



Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Dr. C. P. Thakur has said that Lymphatic Filariasis should be integrated with other disease control programmes as planned by WHO to arrive at the strategy to eliminate the disease. This can be possible through intrasectoral and intersectoral coordination including the active participation of non-governmental organization, multi-lateral and bilateral donor agencies as well as individual companies/persons. Availability of potent tools, development of sound strategic plan and effective implementation at the ground level are the three prerequisites to eliminate the target disease. The Minister was speaking at the Second Meeting of the Global Alliance for the Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis, here today.

Dr. C. P. Thakur told the gathering that Lymphatic Filariasis, otherwise known as elephantiasis, has been a major public health problem in India. According to available data, the disease is widespread with evidence of active infection detected in about a third of the total districts in India. Filariasis is a major problem in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and many districts in the central and southern parts of the country. In India, there is an urgent need to carry out fresh surveys and map areas to quantify the magnitude of the problem in a more scientific and realistic terms.

Deliberating on the efforts made by the India, the Minister said in 1996, one district in Tamil Nadu was taken up for mass administration with a single dose of Diethylcarbamazine (DEC). This was later extended to 12 more districts in seven States by 1998. The impact of the strategy has yet to be evaluated. Based on some experience in some endemic countries, WHO recommended the use of co-administration of DEC+Albendazole for elimination of lymphatic filariasis. Hence, 11 other districts were added since 2000 for mass administration of DEC in combination with Albendazole. About 41 million population is being covered under DEC alone and 26 million under DEC+Albendazole.

The Minister of State for Health & Family Welfare, Shri A. Raja said that this disease is of enormous magnitude in India next only to malaria as a public health problem. The principal cause for the spread of disease is rapid and unplanned growth of towns and cities without proper disposal of sullage and sewage water. The magnitude of filariasis in many parts of rural India is no less a problem as compared to urban areas due to simulating mosquitogenic conditions accumulating in the polluted water bodies where the ubiquitous filarial vector breeds profusely round the year. The conventional method of detection of microfilaria carriers encompasses night blood surveys at odd hours extending to midnight is inconvenient both to workers and the community as a whole. Hence, simple technique of day time detection has to be made available as a cost-effective alternative tool to replace the conventional night blood surveys.

In a video message, the DG, WHO stated that improving the health of those at risk for lymphatic filariasis is not just a matter of reducing disability. It is about providing opportunity for the people to live a full an economically active life as individuals and as part of families. There are more than 20 countries which have demonstrated that this disease elimination programme can achieve concrete outcomes in a short space of time. Through these successes there is a solid base an evidence for elimination, the message stated.

Dr. Uton Muchtar Rafei, Regional Director, WHO, South East Asia Region, Secretary, Health, Shri S. K. Naik and DG, Health Services, Dr. Aggarwal also spoke on the occasion.

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