Jakarta. The Indonesian government, in a bid to eliminate a debilitating condition caused by parasites, is set to embark on a massive public health initiative for over 100 million citizens.
The program to eradicate lymphatic filariasis will be launched in October, in all districts and cities where the condition is endemic, mainly in the eastern, less developed parts of the vast archipelago.
“Our hope is that after this [initiative] the number of cases of elephantiasis will go down, or the disease will disappear altogether,” Puan Maharani, the chief welfare minister, said on Friday. “Because there is still a high incidence of cases in Eastern Indonesia, like in Papua, West Papua, Maluku, North Maluku and East Nusa Tenggara.”
People who suffer from lymphatic filariasis are infected with worms that can be transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. The filarial worms develop into adult worms in the infected person’s lymphatic vessels, causing damage and swelling. Elephantiasis, or the “painful, disfiguring swelling of the legs and genital organs” can develop in later stages of the disease, the World Health Organization says on its website.
The administration of President Joko Widodo says its goal is a filariasis-free Indonesia by 2020.
A total of 195 districts and cities comprising some 105 million people will take part in the program. Everybody above the age of 2 will have to take pills – a combination of diethyl-carbamazine citrate (DEC) and albendazole — every October for the next five years.
“If the treatment is completed, these drugs will make us immune from infection with elephantiasis,” Health Minister Nina Moeloek explained. “We hope that people will not stop halfway through, and therefore the government is providing [the drugs] free of charge.”
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