Lymphatic Filarias – traditional beliefs giving way to reality
Among the neglected tropical diseases in Sierra Leone, Lymphatic Filariasis commonly known as “BIG FUT” is traditionally believed to be caused by witchcraft, cockroaches or owl “korkor” and the likes. This pre-colonial belief has been passed from one generation to another until the advent of modern medicine with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation alongside donor partners ganged up to unveil the truism about Lymphatic Filariasis “BIG FUT” its signs, symptoms, causes and preventions.
The Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Family Health International 360 and Helen Keller International, launched a campaign in the Urban and Rural Western Areas on 10th September 2013 with stakeholders at all levels.
Town and Community sensitization meetings about this disease –BIG FUT were discussed and the importance of taking the BIG FUT medicine and the preventive tablets. They disclosed that Lymphatic Filariasis is being transmitted from person to person by an anopheles mosquito bite. The Ministry and donor partners also disclosed that transmission usually starts in childhood, often before age five (5) and the disease takes about 10-20 years before it fully develops.
It was also disclosed that in the first 10 years after infection there are no signs and symptoms. Swelling slowly begins on the feet, scrotum, breast or an arm with the urine appearing thick and cloudy.
In long lasting infection the leg may begin to suddenly swell, which is very painful and cause fever occurring every few months but stress that BIG FUT swelling is firm and does dimple when applying pressure with the thumb for a minute.
Persons already affected by BIG FUT should be treated with Mectizan and Albendazole donated by Merck & Company and GlaxoSmithKline respectively every three to four months until limb pain and fever stops or disappears.
Chronic swelling of the feet or other body parts may improve but will not resolve completely after treatment. Elevation of the swollen limb and bandaging can help control the swelling.
During 10 – 14 October last year, over 1.4 million above age five received free BIG FUT and worm medicine at selected sites in the western and rural areas with the exception of pregnant women, children under five and lactating mothers.
The Neglected Tropical Disease Programs through the District Medical Management team western area of the Ministry said there are no side effects after taking the treatment.
Since the advent of BIG FUT and worm treatment campaign in the urban and rural areas in 2008, Sierra Leoneans have shifted from the traditional beliefs that elephantiasis is not caused by witch craft, juju, cockroaches or korkor as they believed earlier, but transmitted by the female mosquito.
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