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NEWS : Local News  

In Sierra Leone, Helen Keller to give free ICT blood tests for elephantiasis
By Bintu Aminata Sesay
May 24, 2010, 13:36
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In continuation of the World Health Organizations (WHO) determination to tackle the spread of Lymphatic Filariasis or elephantiasis in the country, Helen Keller International, an international Non-Governmental Organization specializing in health related matters is to embark on an ICT blood test campaign to ascertain the number of persons with symptoms of the disease in the western area.

This was disclosed by a member of staff of the organization, Saidu I. B. Bangura in an exclusive interview at their Freetown office on Friday 21st May 2010. He said the testing programme will commence from the 3rd June to the 7th June 2010 for the western area where the disease is said to be worst hit.

Mr. Bangura described Lymphatic Filariasis as an infection caused by worms leading to the swelling of the foot. "LF is the second leading cause of disability worldwide", he expressed, adding that about 120 million people live with the disease, 40 million of them experiencing some degree of disability as a result.

Mr. Bangura informed that in 2005, ICT blood tests conducted by WHO showed that LF is found throughout Sierra Leone. "Overall about 23% of persons tested in Sierra Leone had evidence of LF infection, with the Western Area worst hit with 12% positive cases."

He added that with another free blood test to be conducted, WHO will determine the extent of contraction since in the Freetown area, thus making it easy to tackle the problem.

On signs and symptoms for Lymphatic Filariasis, Mr. Bangura said it is often difficult to detect them in the first years after infection. "But Sometimes the urine appears thick, milky (cloudy) then Swelling slowly begins, most commonly of the feet and/or scrotum; and sometimes even the breasts or arms become swollen up," he disclosed, adding that it is often accompanied by fever.

He cautioned against the deception that the disease is caused by witchcraft. "Elephantiasis is not caused by witchcraft or juju but worms," he ascertained. He therefore entreated that suspected cases be brought to the knowledge of hospitals the earliest. To prevent the virus in Sierra Leone, he said WHO has recommended annual drug treatment with Ivermectin and Albendazole. "Annual treatment of the entire population over the age of 5 years can eliminate LF in Sierra Leone. This annual treatment began in the Northern and Eastern Provinces in 2007 and extended to the South in 2008," adding that it was now the turn of the Western Area. He however stated that such drug treatment or "dose pole" excludes the severely ill or weak, pregnant and lactating mothers and under 5 children. He ended by disclosing that the national implementation has been made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as Helen Keller gives the technical support to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.


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