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Haiti’s ‘Remarkable Progress’ Toward Eliminating Lymphatic Filariasis

In the Huffington Post’s “World” blog, CDC Director Tom Frieden examines efforts to eliminate lymphatic filariasis in Haiti, writing, “For decades, poverty, government instability and other realities often stood in the way of success. This is why the recent data showing Haiti is protecting its entire population from lymphatic filariasis is a milestone — a real-life testament to persistence, creativity and collaboration.” He states, “Lymphatic filariasis, or elephantiasis, is one of the world’s most disabling and costly tropical diseases,” adding, “Even though we have the tools to eliminate it entirely, it continues to affect more than 120 million people worldwide.” He continues, “To stop spread of the disease, at least 70 percent of the population must receive a dose of two medicines every year for five years.”

“Over the past several years, a team of public health workers from Haiti’s Ministry of Health, CDC and other organizations have provided this treatment throughout Haiti, except in the challenging area of Port-au-Prince,” Frieden notes, adding, “But now the population of Port-au-Prince is also being successfully treated — a remarkable feat. The medicines also protect people against intestinal worms, helping kids grow and study better.” He continues, “Of course, there’s so much more to be done. Water and sanitation still need attention. Childhood and maternal death rates remain too high. But this achievement in the fight against lymphatic filariasis shows progress is indeed possible.” He concludes, “The success of the Haiti experience will help public health officials refine future efforts to combat lymphatic filariasis in other places in the Americas and worldwide” (6/13).