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WHO Declares Republic of Kiribati Free of Lymphatic Filariasis

WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr Takeshi Kasai congratulated Kiribati on eliminating lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem.

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Updated:October 10, 2019, 3:07 PM IST
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WHO Declares Republic of Kiribati Free of Lymphatic Filariasis
A robber fly also known as an assassin fly eats a mosquito in Dhading, Nepal June 30, 2019. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar - RC169A9CCF90

The World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region on Monday announced that Kiribati, officially the Republic of Kiribati, a sovereign state in Micronesia in the central Pacific Ocean, has eliminated lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem.

Speaking about the same, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr Takeshi Kasai congratulated Kiribati on eliminating lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem.

Notably, according to the CDC, Lymphatic filariasis, is a parasitic disease caused by microscopic, thread-like worms, which only live in the human lymph system. The lymph system maintains the body’s fluid balance and fights infections. Lymphatic filariasis is spread from person to person by mosquitoes. People suffering from the disease can suffer from lymphedema and elephantiasis and in men, swelling of the scrotum, called hydrocele.

According to reports, the achievement of eliminating lymphatic filarisis as a health crisis was due to years of effort by the Kiribati Ministry of Health and Medical Services, with support from health agencies from other countries and WHO, as well as donations of medicines from pharmaceutical partners, have made this landmark achievement possible.

Kiribati comprises 32 atolls and reef islands and one raised coral island, Banaba over 2 million square miles in the Pacific Ocean.

The standard method of diagnosis active infection is through the identification of microfilariae in a blood smear by microscopic examination. They cause lymphatic filariasis circulate in the blood at night and thus blood collection should be done at night to coincide with the appearance of the microfilariae. Furthermore, a thick smear should be made and stained with Giemsa or hematoxylin and eosin.

While the parasite damages the lymph system, most infected people show no symptoms and never develop clinical symptoms either. They do not know they suffer from the disease unless tested. A very small percentage of people develop lymphedema caused by fluid collection because of improper functioning of the lymph system resulting in swelling of the legs. However, this can occur in arms, breasts, and genitalia as well.

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