Elephantiasis is a disease that is characterized by the thickening of the skin and underlying tissues, especially in the legs and other parts of the body.
Mr. Chukwu, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Fatimah Bamidele, disclosed this in Abuja at the National Conference to Stop Transmission of Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) and Malaria in Nigeria.
Noting the vector for this disease is the mosquito, which is endemic across the nation, the Minister explained that Nigeria is ranked the third highest nation with global burden of lymphatic filariasis after India and Indonesia.
“LF and Malaria are parasitic diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes; they are endemic in all states and the FCT.” “Nigeria is ranked the third highest global burden of lymphatic filariasis after India and Indonesia” he said.
“Over a 100 million persons, that is two out of every three Nigerians are at risk of the disease” stated the Minister of Health, adding that “the LF prevalence studies indicate that 13 states have high prevalence rate of about 23 per cent, while the rest have prevalence rate of about 10 per cent.”
“Such complications are major impediments to productivity and psychosocial well-being of our people” noted Mr Chukwu.
The Minister said the number of people who were administered drugs as treatment for LF rose from 4.7 million in 2009 to 10 million in 2010, adding that the data for 2011 is still being collected.
He explained that more than 4,000 health workers and 50,000 community volunteers have been trained and retrained to deliver interventions on the disease.
Also speaking, the Chairman of the event, General Yakubu Gowon, called for rapid scale-up intervention programmes targeted at the elimination of the two diseases (malaria and lymphatic filariasis) from Nigeria.
The former head of state, noted that the conference was very important to Nigeria and significant on the global public health calendar.
Frank Richard, the Director, Malaria and Lymphatic Filariasis Programme at the Carter Center, Atlanta, USA, said the aim of the conference was to create awareness on the benefits of integrating malaria control and Lymphatic Filariasis activities among relevant stakeholders.
He added that the conference was also aimed at scaling-up intervention programmes to eradicate the two diseases.
WHAT CAUSES ELEPHANTAISIS
- According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) elephantiasis (Lymphatic Filariasis), is a neglected tropical disease, which occurs when filarial parasites are transmitted to humans through mosquitoes.
- When a mosquito with infective stage larvae bites a person, the parasites are deposited on the person’s skin from where they enter the body and migrate to the lymphatic vessels where they develop into adult worms in the human lymphatic system.
- The infection, according to WHO, is usually acquired during childhood, with the painful and profoundly disfiguring visible manifestations of the disease occurring later in life.
- The acute stage of the disease leads to temporary disability, but LF leads to permanent disability.