The province of Iloilo has reason to be triumphant in the field of healthcare. For the second year in a row, it has been declared ‘lymphatic filariasis-free.’ It’s a big deal considering filariasis is endemic to the province.

So when the transmission report and the nocturnal blood survey came back negative, provincial officials were understandably proud of the achievement.

Iloilo maintained its ‘lymphatic filariasis-free’ status in 2016, following the initial declaration of Department of Health in 2015.

“This is something that we are proud of and will continue to sustain,” Provincial Health Officer Patricia Grace Trabado was quoted by the Sun Star.

Iloilo was among 44 provinces in the country where filariasis - a painful and disfiguring parasitic disease also known as elephantiasis - is endemic. Other areas that have had to deal with filariasis are Capiz, Aklan, and Antique also in Central Philippines, as well as Marinduque, Mindoro and Romblon in MIMAROPA in southern Luzon and Albay in the Bicol region.

In 2001, the DOH initiated an elimination programme using a drug combination. November was likewise declared the Filariasis Treatment Month, through an administrative order.

The nocturnal blood survey was conducted in the village of Cabatangan, Lumbanao town in 2016 where 3,192 first and second graders participated in the transmission assessment. All tests indicated a ‘negative’ transmission of the disease.

Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr said the milestones they achieved with filariasis must become a blueprint in eliminating dengue as well.

DOH has granted the province a Php 1 million incentive for being a filariasis-free, and a portion of the funds were used as cash prizes for the municipal health offices with a high coverage. Balasan, Pototan and Calinog ended up as the top three municipalities.

The other 40 municipalities likewise received Php 5,000 in cash each.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), filariasis has a major social and economic impact with an estimated annual loss of USD 1 billion and impairs economic activity by up to 88 percent.

Nematode worms measuring from 3 to 10 centimetres, which cause the disease, form nests within the human lymphatic system.

Manifestations include lymphoedema, genital diseases and fever. Some patients may be asymptomatic but as many as 40 percent may show kidney damage with proteinuria and haematuria.

Filariasis may be acquired during childhood but its visible manifestations start to manifest later in life. MIMS

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