What is Lymphatic Filariasis?
Where it occurs and who it affects?
Lymphatic Filariasis also known as elephantiasis is caused by the filarial parasite which is transmitted to human beings through mosquito bites. This is a very painful disease that puts about 20% of the world`s population at risk, with 120 million of people currently being affected.
This disease is found in many tropical and sub-tropical climates such as Africa, India and South Asia. In Cameroon, about 80% of the regions are endemic for lymphatic filariasis. Men are more affected than women.
The filarial parasite is transmitted via the skin when an infected mosquito bites a human being. The larvae then migrate through the body and settle in the lymphatic system. The adult worms live in the human lymph system where they lays eggs that get into the bloodstream. Worms can live in the human body for up to 6 years and when they die they cause disfiguring, swelling of the legs, scrotum and breast.
Those who are infected are usually asypmtomatic at the beginning so there will be no symptoms, but as the disease progresses various symptoms could appear such as;
- Swelling or hardening of the skin
- Severe swelling/lymphedema of the extremities or genitals
- Men can also develop a condition called hydrocele-fluid-filled balloon-like enlargement of the scrotum
- Sometimes, acute episodes of severe swelling can occur in chronic patients (filarial fevers)
Once a person is infected they can not be cured however, through the administration of the drugs Ivermectin and Albendazole, the spread of the disease can be hindered.There is no preventive medication or vaccine against Lymphatic Filariasis, however precautions can be taken to prevent infection such as;
Wearing light coloured clothing to prevent mosquito bites
Using a repellent on exposed skin, applying a permethrin spray (or solution) to clothing and gear
Sleeping under a bed net.