30 Sep 2011

France helps Fiji contain elephantiasis

3:38 pm on 30 September 2011

Fiji's Ministry of Health is getting assistance from the French government as it struggles to contain the disfiguring disease elephantiasis.

The interim Health Minister Dr Neil Sharma says he's encouraging everyone over the age of two to take medication which will kill the parasite that enters the body from infected mosquito bites.

He says the drugs also prevent the worm re-entering the body and many people won't know they are harbouring the parasite.

He says the WHO targets for prevalence of the disease are less than one per cent but despite the Ministry's efforts 80,000 people or ten per cent of the population have it.

Dr Sharma says a surgical team from France are due in Fiji soon.

"It's not a problem which creates death, but it causes disability with distortion of limbs and in males, the scrotum, and it needs to be addressed. We've had surgeons with support of the French government, who have operated over two rounds, they're coming in for the third round and there's about sixty or eighty cases left which need to be treated."

Dr Neil Sharma says the Western Division is free of the disease but tablets will be distributed to other divisions over the next month.