Medical Perspectives | Others

April 07, 2020



While the word TIBAK may resonate among progressive students as an alternative name for being an activist or “aktibista”, TIBAK is also the Tagalog name of ELEPHANTIASIS or lymphatic filariasis, a tropical disease endemic to 44 out of 80 provinces in the Philippines.[1] WHO estimates set the number of Filipinos at risk of contracting the disease at three million.[2]

 

The month of November is FILARIASIS MASS TREATMENT Month, as declared under Executive Order No. 369 which was signed on October 5, 2004, by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.[3]  Here are the basic things the public should know about this neglected or little-known tropical disease.

 

What is Filariasis? Described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a “parasitic disease caused by microscopic, thread-like worms”, Filariasis is transmitted and spread by mosquitoes.[4]

 

The parasitic worms enter and infect the mosquito which bites a person with the disease. In turn, when the infected mosquito bites another person, the worms are passed through the skin and find their way to the lymph vessels where they grow and live for about 5-7 years.[5]

 

The disease can cause permanent disability, such as enlargement of the arms and legs or lympheodema,[6] and “swelling of the scrotum” among men.[7]

 

What are the symptoms? Fever, chills, headaches, and skin lesions are the early signs. If untreated, swelling in the legs and external genitals can occur. These symptoms are in reaction to inflammation caused by the worms.[8] Filariasis may also cause “chronic lymph node swelling”, which may give rise to other conditions including hydrocele or accumulation of fluid in the scrotum, lymphatic fluid in urine and excessive enlargement of lymphatic vessels.[9]

 

What is the treatment for Filariasis? In the Philippines, by virtue of EO 369, a mass drug administration is conducted annually in the month of November. The drugs prescribed to the residents are Diethylecarbamacine (DEC) and albendozale.[10] These drugs are meant to kill, eliminate and/or prevent the reproduction of the adult worms.[11] In some cases, surgery is performed to treat hydrocele, while for swollen legs, elastic stockings and elevation are recommended.[12]

 

What can we do to prevent Filariasis? Preventive measures are focused mainly on mosquito control and avoiding mosquito bites, especially between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes carrying microscopic worms are active. Using a mosquito net and applying mosquito repellent are basic steps that can keep the mosquitoes and the disease away.[13]

 

 

[1] WHO Western Pacific Region. [2011] Neglected tropical disease in the Philippines. Retrieved from http://www.wpro.who.int/philippines/areas/communicable_diseases/mvp/story_ntd/en/index1.html

[2] WHO Western Pacific Region. [2011] Neglected tropical disease in the Philippines. Retrieved from http://www.wpro.who.int/philippines/areas/communicable_diseases/mvp/story_ntd/en/index1.html

[3] Iligan City Government. [2014, November]. Filariasis. Retrieved from http://www.iligan.gov.ph/november-1-302014-filariasis-awareness-month/

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [2018, October]. Parasites-Lymphatic Filariasis: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lymphaticfilariasis/gen_info/faqs.html

[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [2018, October]. Parasites-Lymphatic Filariasis. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lymphaticfilariasis/index.html

[6] WHO Western Pacific Region. [2011] Neglected tropical disease in the Philippines. Retrieved from http://www.wpro.who.int/philippines/areas/communicable_diseases/mvp/story_ntd/en/index1.html

[7] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [2018, October]. Parasites-Lymphatic Filariasis. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lymphaticfilariasis/index.html

[8] National Organization for Rare Disorders. [2009]. Filariasis. Retrieved from https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/filariasis/

[9] National Organization for Rare Disorders. [2009]. Filariasis. Retrieved from https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/filariasis/

[10] WHO Western Pacific Region. [2011] Neglected tropical disease in the Philippines. Retrieved from http://www.wpro.who.int/philippines/areas/communicable_diseases/mvp/story_ntd/en/index1.html

[11] National Organization for Rare Disorders. [2009]. Filariasis. Retrieved from https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/filariasis/

[12] National Organization for Rare Disorders. [2009]. Filariasis. Retrieved from https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/filariasis/

[13] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [2018, October]. Parasites-Lymphatic Filariasis: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lymphaticfilariasis/gen_info/faqs.html

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