Nepal making good progress against NTDs

- Manish Gautam, COLOMBO(SRI LANKA)

Sep 7, 2016-

Nepal is on the verge of eliminating the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), including lymphatic filariasis (LF), leprosy, kala-azar and trachoma if it sustains the current level of intervention in disease control, according to experts.

Among the four NTDs that grapple Nepal, leoprosy remains a major problem with significant findings of new cases each year. In case of the LF, commonly known as elephantiasis, the Ministry of Health has achieved elimination target in 25 out of 61 affected districts. The government has been conducting mass drug administration programme since 2003 in a bid to eliminate the LF although the coverage remains low in urban areas. Elephantiasis is the second major infectious disease after leprosy to cause permanent and long-term disability, in the country. A study carried out across 37 districts in 2003 found that 13 percent of the country’s total population were affected by the LF. The disease is caused by small, threadlike parasitic worms spread by Culex female mosquitoes.

Also, no new cases of kalaazar have been reported in the country for the last three years. Dr Ahmed Jamsheed Mohamed, regional adviser at the Regional Office for South-East Asia of World Health Organization, said Nepal is the first country in the region to maintain less than one case of kala-azar per 1,000 people at the district level. “This is a great success. Next year, international experts will validate the results. If they are convinced, we will begin the process to certify the elimination of the disease,” said Dr Mohamed.

Kala-azar is characterised by irregular bouts of fever, substantial weight loss, swelling of the spleen and liver, and anaemia. Many Tarai districts remain at high risk of the disease.

Despite the significant achievement in kala-azar, there has been a sluggish progress in leprosy control in Nepal, which according to the WHO standard, comes after the worst affected countries, including India and Indonesia.

In 2015, Nepal reported 2,751 new cases of leprosy in addition to 3,046 detected in 2014. The fact that the disease is affecting many children has been a major concern for the experts. “This means there is an ongoing transmission of leprosy,” said Dr Mohamed. “We are also concerned that many of the cases that are found have visible disability and are deformed. This suggests people have been hiding their disease because of the stigma attached to it.”

According to a WHO report, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka are considered high-endemic countries, contributing 99.8% of new cases from the region in 2014.

Officials from the Ministry of Health said that they have prioritised the leprosy programme and the number of new cases has dropped in the past five years.

Published: 07-09-2016 08:51

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