Egypt has became the first country in the Eastern Mediterranean region to eliminate lymphatic filariasis, also known as elephantiasis, as a public health problem, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The international body said the result came as a result of large-scale treatment campaigns, followed by surveillance of at-risk areas.
“This is a landmark achievement that brings prospects of hope and improved health to future generations of Egyptians,” said Dr Jaouad Mahjour, regional director for WHO in the Eastern Mediterranean region, was quoted as saying in a WHO press release.
The disease’s presence in Egypt goes back to ancient history, with suffers depicting in pharaonic-era art and Arabic literature, according to the release.
Lymphatic filariasis is caused by a parasitic worm that lives in the lympathic system and can trigger enlargement of body parts. It was formerly endemic in rural Egypt, and symptoms of the disease such as swollen limbs and genitals were commonly observed in medical surveys of the country.
A 1993 Egyptian health publication estimated that 250,000 people were infected and 2.5 million at risk for infection at that time in eight governorates, mostly in the Nile Delta region and in Giza.
In 2000, Egypt was one of the first countries in the world to implement a national elimination programme of lymphatic filariasis based on mass-drug administration, the press release noted.
Several rounds of mass-drug administration were implemented until 2013. Assessments between 2014-2017 confirmed that “Egypt has met all criteria for achieving elimination as a public health problem,” read the release.
“Egypt will continue to improve disease management among people who are already infected as well as ensure that appropriate surveillance is maintained to ensure zero transmission,” added Mahjour.
The international body’s Eastern Mediterranean region classification includes Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the UAE, and Yemen, as well as Egypt.