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Union Health Ministry Adopts New Plan to Accelerate Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination

Having missed two deadlines for eliminating lymphatic filariasis (LF) — first in 2015 and then in 2017, the Union Health Ministry is now pinning hopes on Accelerated Plan for Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis (APELF) 2018, released on Wednesday to make the country free of the mosquito-borne parasitic infection by 2020. India accounts for 40 percent of the infection caused by roundworms worldwide. “With the concerted efforts of the Center, State Governments and development partners, 100 districts out of total 256 endemic districts have achieved elimination target and stopped Mass Drug Administration (MDA) after successful validation by Transmission Assessment Survey (TAS) and are under post MDA surveillance,” Nadda said after inaugurating the 10th meeting of Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GAELF).

Under the APELF, strategies like the Triple Drug Therapy or IDA [Ivermectin, diethylcarbamazine (DEC) and Albendazole], community engagement for successful MDA implementation and use of DEC-medicated salt, house-to-house visit advocacy, are being deployed to strengthen the LF elimination efforts. Presently, the strategy to eliminate LF in India is based on twin pillars of Mass Drug Administration (MDA) once in a year for interruption of transmission i.e. no new case and to cater to the patients already afflicted with the disease with morbidity management. However, achieving the LF elimination target within next two years will not be an easy affair. LF has remained a public health problem in India despite the existence of National Filaria Control Program since 1955. It is prevalent in 17 states and 6 union territories. Compliance of the MDA has been the major challenge. This was also pointed out by Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Ashwini Kumar Choubey at the event. He reiterated the need to address one of the major challenges — compliance to treatment. He said it is crucial to encourage the community to consume preventive medicines given out during MDA. – Daily Pioneer