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Lymphatic filariasis eliminated in more nations

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Three more countries have wiped out lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem.

Palau, Vietnam, and Wallis and Futuna have eliminated lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem, bringing to 11 the number of countries and areas validated since 2000 in the World Health Organisation (WHO) Western Pacific Region.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Regional Director Dr Shin Young-soo marked the accomplishment by presenting certificates to representatives from Palau, Vietnam, and Wallis and Futuna during the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific held recently in Manila.

“We sincerely congratulate Palau, Vietnam, and Wallis and Futuna for eliminating lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem,” Dr Shin said.

“Decades of their effort with support from partners – including the governments of France, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America—as well as donations of medicines have enabled them to achieve this milestone and ensure future generations are safe from this dreadful disease.”

A mosquito-borne disease, lymphatic filariasis is one of 15 neglected tropical diseases that are endemic in the WHO Western Pacific Region. Also known as elephantiasis, the disease is painful and can lead to permanent disfigurement and disability, often causing people to lose their livelihood and suffer from stigma, depression and anxiety.

In 1997, the World Health Assembly resolved to eliminate lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem. In 2000, WHO launched the Global Program to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis by 2020. The program focuses on:

  • stopping the spread of infection through large-scale, annual treatment of all eligible people in affected areas; and
  • alleviating suffering by managing symptoms and preventing disability among people who are infected with lymphatic filariasis.

Since WHO launched program, a total of 11 countries and areas in the Western Pacific Region have been validated as having eliminated lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem: Cambodia, China, Cook Islands, Niue, the Marshall Islands, Palau, the Republic of Korea, Tonga, Vanuatu, Vietnam, and Wallis and Futuna.

Lymphatic filariasis remains endemic in 13 countries and areas in the Region: American Samoa, Brunei Darussalam, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Federated States of Micronesia, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa and Tuvalu.