Lymphatic filariasis (LF, or elephantiasis) often strikes children and adults living in impoverished, unsanitary conditions. Transmitted by mosquitoes, LF threatens more than one billion people in over 80 countries, with one third of those infected from India, one third from Africa, and the remainder from South Asia, the Pacific and the Americas. Of the 120 million people already afflicted, more than 40 million are seriously incapacitated and disfigured by the disease. Fortunately, we have seen major successes in efforts to prevent and treat LF around the world.
In 1997 the World Health Organization created the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis, with a strategy designed to eradicate the disease via mass drug administration—treating large portions of the population in order to break the cycle of transmission. To support these global efforts, GlaxoSmithKline and Merck & Co. pledged long-term drug donations of unprecedented size.
Over the ensuing decade, more than two billion treatments were safely administered, and, in 2007 alone, 546 million people were treated to prevent transmission of LF, making this the single largest public health initiative employing mass drug administration to prevent an NTD ever.
Since 1997, some 6.6 million children who would have otherwise been infected with elephantiasis have been protected from the disease, with another 9.5 million infected people protected from the disease progressing to more debilitating stages. These efforts ensure that children and adults who would otherwise be infected and unable to attend school or earn a living can live healthy, productive livescontributing to the well-being of their families and economies.
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