Lymphatic filariasis,on the spotlight in Brazil

By: Agustin Caceres

In Recife, Brasil, the government is using the school system to screen and treat children for lymphatic filariasis

Brasilia, May 29th 2012  Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), is taking place this week in Brasilia (Brazil). In this event, more than 30 representatives of governments, academia, and donor organizations in the fight against neglected infectious disease have gathered to discuss the situation of this NID in the Americas including the success stories, and also the remaining challenges.

In the opening session, hosted by Dr. Joaquin Molina, Representative of PAHO in Brazil, and Dr. Jarbas Barbosa da Silva Jr, Secretary of Health Surveillance of the Health Ministry of Brazil, highlighted that the disease continues to represent an important challenge for the health authorities of Latin America and the Caribbean. In the region, more than 12 million people are at risk of contracting this disease including Haiti, one of the countries most at risk.

“These meetings demonstrate Brazil’s support for the elimination of this disease in the country”, said Dr. Barbosa da Silva. “We are close to the elimination of LF, and that is why this is such an important step. This disease has to remain a top priority and this is why it is key that it is addressed with an integrated approach in collaboration with primary health care services. It is not just about eradication, but also about sustained surveillance.”

Lymphatic filariasis, which is included in the group of the Neglected Infectious Diseases, affects mainly indigenous populations, as well as rural and urban populations that live in pockets of extreme deprivation in several countries in LAC. This is the case of the metropolitan area of Recife, in northeastern Brazil, where the Inter-American Development Bank is supporting a project for the control and elimination of this disease as well as others like leprosy, still present in several areas in Brazil, and geohelminthiasis (intestinal parasites), which has a strong prevalence among children in school age in many municipalities throughout the country.

More than 30 representatives of several countries in the Region are attending this event, such as Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname –countries that have certified the eradication of this disease and therefore are no longer considered endemic- together with other countries that are still fighting this disease, including Haiti, Brazil and the Dominican Republic.

The meetings have covered a wide range of topics related to the fight against this disease: from Suriname’s National Plan of Action for the control of NIDs to the experience in Integrated Vector Management in Trinidad and Tobago and the metropolitan area of Recife in Brazil, where activities to monitor and eliminate breeding sites of the culex mosquito –vector for the transmission of LF- are a key component in the strategy to eradicate this disease.

The fight against LF is part of the joint efforts of the Neglected Infectious Diseases Initiative for Latin America and the Caribbean, an initiative that is supporting innovative projects based with an integrated approach in both the fight against multiple diseases as well as the integration with other sectors like water, sanitation, and housing.

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Agustin Caceres is a consultant in Communications and Outreach at the Social Protection and Health Division of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Washington DC.

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