Poorer Kenyans Are At Risk Of Contacting Elephantiasis

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A campaign, which has been launched to treat patients in poor communities who suffer from a variety of diseases arising from poor sanitation levels, has drawn out a high-risk situation for the case of elephantiasis disease.

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Elephantiasis disease is basically a parasitic infection which leads to the extreme swelling of arms and legs. It is caused by the filarial worm, which is transmitted from human to human via the female mosquito when it takes a blood meal.

The disease, common mostly in India, is able to gain a foothold in poorer parts of Kenya because of poor sanitation.

Elephantiasis Disease

Almost three million people in Kenya are at risk of the disease and the incidence is being helped along by a belief that it is the result of witchcraft. Kenya’s government has initially been slow in their response to the threat but has now launched a huge campaign to tackle neglected tropical diseases in coastal areas.

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One of the people in Marikibuni village who has already contacted the elephantiasis disease spoke to Al Jazeera.  Katoi Kaviha, whose feet have enlarged to the point of rendering him incapable of walking, said;

“I used to be a fisherman but I can no longer do that. To earn a living I have to do menial labor and it’s very difficult.”

Only this year has medicine, to combat the rise of these neglected tropical diseases, begun to be properly distributed under a multimillion-dollar campaign. Previously, the victims had been completely unaware of the presence of a cure.

Testing and Treatment of Elephantiasis Disease

The standard test for detecting the infection is a microscopic examination of a blood smear for the presence of the microfilariae. The blood of the patient should be sampled at night because the microfilariae circulate via the blood nocturnally.

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The main medication used to treat this condition is diethylcarbamazine or DEC, which kills the microfilariae as well as some adult worms. The medication is usually well tolerated but side effects include dizziness, fever, and aching muscles.