Upper East Region: Elephantiasis Cases Surge in Ghana.

Upper East Region: Elephantiasis Cases Surge in Ghana.

The Upper East region of Ghana has emerged as a hotspot for elephantiasis, medically known as lymphatic filariasis, recording the highest number of cases within the country.

High Incidence in Upper East Region

According to recent data from the Ghana Health Service, an alarming total of 2,373 confirmed cases of elephantiasis have been reported in the Upper East region.

This staggering figure constitutes nearly a third of the national cases across Ghana.

Leg of a person with elephantiasis, or lymphatic filariasis, 3D illustration. A disease caused by nematode worms Wuchereria bancrofti and other, transmitted by mosquito bite

Understanding Elephantiasis

Elephantiasis, a parasitic infection, is caused by thread-like worms transmitted through mosquito bites. The repercussions of this infection can lead to the swelling and thickening of limbs and reproductive organs.

This, in turn, results in significant disfigurement and disability.

Additionally, severe pain, discomfort, and secondary infections are common afflictions associated with this condition.

Effective Measures in the Upper East Region

Bright Alomatu, the Desk Officer for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) at the Ghana Health Service, emphasized that despite the entire Upper East Region being endemic, the concerted efforts of health workers have successfully contained the spread of elephantiasis.

Factors Contributing to High Incidence

Experts speculate that the high prevalence of elephantiasis cases in the Upper East region could be attributed to a range of factors, including inadequate sanitation and hygiene practices.

Such conditions create an environment conducive to mosquito breeding and the subsequent transmission of the infection.

Elevated Risk in Ongoing Transmission Zones

Alomatu highlighted the elevated risk in regions with ongoing transmission, where mosquitoes indiscriminately bite humans, facilitating the spread of the parasite and increasing the likelihood of infection.

Comprehensive Training and Progress Nationwide

Notably, since 2016, comprehensive training for health workers and volunteers has been conducted across all regions of Ghana. This coordinated effort has played a pivotal role in arresting disease transmission in as many as 109 districts.

The disease was initially mapped in 1999, revealing 116 out of Ghana’s 261 districts as endemic for elephantiasis.

Interestingly, certain regions such as Ashanti, Ahafo, Volta, and Oti have been identified as non-endemic areas.

Empowering Patients Through Education

A significant stride has been taken through training initiatives, benefitting over 2,100 patients. These programs focus on equipping patients with the knowledge and skills to manage their conditions, leading to visible reductions in swelling and inflammation.

Elephantiasis predominantly affects areas such as legs, hands, breasts (in women), penis, vulva, and scrotum.

In Ghana, hands, legs, and the scrotum are the most frequently impacted.

This awareness campaign has been organized with collaborative support from the Ghana Health Service, American Leprosy Mission, and the Christian Connection for International Health.

Advocacy for Patient Welfare

Solomon Atinbire, the Program Manager for American Leprosy Mission, expounded on the campaign’s goal to empower advocates. These advocates are working towards the inclusion of elephantiasis patients in Ghana’s Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) program.

This inclusion aims to facilitate patients’ access to health insurance coverage and healthcare facilities during times of illness.

Atinbire further emphasized that the debilitating effects of elephantiasis render patients economically vulnerable, hindering their access to vital healthcare services.

As a response, dedicated committees have been established across districts and municipalities within the region, championing the cause of elephantiasis patients and their well-being.

Empowering Patients Through Funding

Dr. Josephat Nyuzaghl, the Upper East Regional Deputy Health Director overseeing Public Health, anticipates that these advocacy groups will collaborate with local assemblies. The aim is to ensure elephantiasis patients’ eligibility for disability funds, specially allocated to enhance their welfare.

Source: GNA

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