In the backdrop of the country observing Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) week from December 14-20 to undertake Mass Drug Administration at endemic areas of various states and to spread awareness against the disease, the Joint Director of Health Services for the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), Odisha shared his experience on how he himself had fallen a victim of LF and how he had fought it back.
LF also known as elephantiasis (Hathipaon) is a parasitic disease caused by microscopic worms transmitted through mosquitoe bites. The disease leads to the complete disability for a person.
The disease is endemic in 15 states and 5 Union Territories including West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. India failed to meet its target of eliminating the LF by 2015. Following the resolution adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1997 for elimination of LF, India started Mass Drug Administration and launched a programme of eliminating the disease in 2004.
Dr MM Pradhan, Joint Director of Health Services for the NVBDCP in Odisha, said: “During the late 1990s, I was infected with LF, or elephantiasis, a neglected tropical disease (NTD) that can cause extreme pain, crippling disability and disfigurement. LF is one of 17 NTDs recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a group of parasitic and bacterial infections, which primarily affect people living in extreme poverty.”
Dr Pradhan said, “The incident occurred after I completed my medical degree. I was eager to work in Odisha and help some of its most vulnerable and underserved communities. It was during this time that I began working on an LF project, making night visits to endemic villages to collect blood samples of patients. I knew how LF was transmitted, but I had limited knowledge on the preventive aspect. As the disease is typical in most cases, I was unknown about its symptoms. When I saw my right foot swelling with redness and pain, I immediately diagnosed the disease and took the full course of diethylcarbamazine (DEC) tablets. I was cured and never had a recurrence again. Though I was fortunate enough to stop the disease at an early stage, many are not as lucky.”
“During my tenure as a medical officer in rural Odisha, I found a number of patients with LF. Many of them lived in the poorest communities, with limited resources and support from their families. As we observe National Filaria Week from December 14 to 20, it is important to raise greater awareness about this disease, which threatens nearly 352 million people in India,” Dr Pradhan said.
As a part of its anti-LF campaign this week, West Bengal has also been conducting Mass Drug Administration in the endemic areas of Purulia, Bankura, Burdwan, Birbhum and Murshidabad. The first three districts are worst hit, according the state health department officials.
Dr Adhip Ghosh, deputy director of health service (malaria), said: “We are conducting MDA in the endemic areas of the state. Morbidity management works are properly done.”