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Haiti Announces Plans on Eradicating Elephantiasis

Update Date: Jun 14, 2013 03:32 PM EDT

Elephantiasis is a parasitic infection that can severely distort its victim's body. The parasitic worm that is responsible for this condition, also known as lymphatic filariasis, invades the lymphatic system, leading to abnormal swelling of the legs and sometimes the arms and scrotum. This infection could enlarge one's scrotum into the size of a basketball and lead to excess skin hanging around the leg areas, which could ostracize infected people. Due to the problem with elephantiasis, Haiti has finally announced that it will start a nationwide campaign to end the infection.

"It's a big burden economically and physically for that [infected] person," says Beau de Rochars from the University of Florida reported by NPR. Rochars was a part of this new study aiming to find a way to get rid of elephantiasis. Rochars has also been treating Haitians with this infection or about two decades.

The Haitian healthy ministry stated that within four years, its new program would have hopefully eliminated elephantiasis. The program is set to be successful because it now has access to Port-au-Prince, a metropolitan center that used to be a hard place to administer treatment and increase awareness. Within Port-au-Prince, there are over two million people who could get infected. The new program will start a deworming campaign with the goal of getting everyone to take the two pills per year to protect them from the parasite. The ministry hopes that if it can deworm at least the 65 percent threshold in Port-au-Prince, the parasite could eventually be eliminated.

 "If a country like Haiti, with all of the challenges that they've faced over the last few year, is able to achieve full national coverage, I think that is as an important example for other countries, which are struggling to scale up their programs as well," commented another contributor of the study, Patrick Lammie. Lammie is an immunologist with the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Elephantiasis is currently at large in Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Guyana. The report was published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

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