Leyte’s Dagami town steps up drive to wipe out schistosomiasis

DAGAMI, Leyte, (PNA) — The local government unit here will continue its massive treatment against schistosomiasis, a disease endemic to 38 of the town’s 65 villages.

Nemia Y. Sangrano said that 90 percent of the town’s population within the age bracket of five to 65 years old is being targeted for treatment through intake of praziquantel tablet.

“Almost all people in this town are exposed to schistosomiasis because of the presence of rivers and many areas are low lying,” Sangrano said.

The official said that the damages to toilets, could fuel the spread of the disease due to open defecation.

The town, the venue of last year’s ceremonial kick-off launching on mass treatment of schistosomiasis, is considered as priority area in the mass treatment.

However, due to super typhoon Yolanda, only 10,591 persons were given treatment, which accounts to 60 percent of the target population.

The national government is stepping up efforts to make the country schistosomiasis-free by 2016 through massive treatment of 85 percent Filipinos living in highly endemic communities.

An area is considered endemic when indigenous cases exist and presence of infected snails.

About 12.5 persons are living in 28 endemic provinces with 2.5 million people are directly exposed to schistosomiasis.

The health department admitted that the disease, although has been present in the country since early 1900s, was neglected in the past, given the country’s focus on treating deadly diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and human immunodeficiency virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) listed schistosomiasis as one of the 17 neglected tropical diseases worldwide.

The central government is eyeing to wipe out the disease by 2020. The health department is stepping up its advocacy to local government officials to take part in the treatment program.

Since the program was launched in 2009, the program only reached 50 to 70 percent of the country’s highly exposed population.

Schistosomiasis is an infection caused by blood fluke. A person may acquire the infection from fresh water contaminated with larval cercariae, which developed in snails. Untreated individuals could transmit the disease through discharging schistosome eggs in feces into bodies of water.

Long term infections can result to severe development of lesions, which can lead to blockage of blood flow. The infection can also cause portal hypertension, which can make collateral circulation, hence, redirecting the eggs to other parts of the body.

The health department said that the disease does not only infect farmers but public school teachers and health workers deployed in endemic areas.

In Eastern Visayas alone, at least 742,271 persons or 18 percent of the 4.13 million population are highly exposed to this tropical disease. Only 65 percent of the region’s households have access to sanitary toilets as of 2011.