31.6 lakh persons to be given anti-filaria drug

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, MARCH 17. The district health administration is in the process of making arrangements for the conduct of a mass drug administration (MDA) programme against filaria on March 28. The MDA programme is being organised here for the first time.

Trained volunteers of the Health Department will make visit houses to distribute the drugs, said E.K. Madhavan, the District Medical Officer. The target population for the MDA programme is 31.6 lakhs, after excluding pregnant women and children below the age of two years. The department has trained 16,765 volunteers for the district, who will visit 8.39 lakh houses to administer the drug. Each volunteer has been assigned 50 houses.

Health squads

The department has also readied 112 rapid response teams and mobile health squads, which will have ambulances and mobile phones at their disposal to meet any emergencies. The number of the nearest response team will be given to each household and the team can be contacted on requirement.

Medicines despatched

The required quantities of medicines have already been despatched to the primary health centres as well as private hospitals. The volunteers have been given instructions not to force anyone to take the medicine, the health officials said.

Children in the 2-5 age group will have to be given one 100 mg tablet of Diethyl Carbamazine Citrate (DEC), those in the 6-14 years group will be given two tablets and those above 15 years, three tablets. These are single doses, to be taken only after consuming food and never on an empty stomach.

The MDA programme was to have been launched on June 5 last year and had to be postponed several times following large-scale public apprehension about the possible side effects of the drug. The controversy forced the Government to set up an expert committee to study if the drug has any side effects. The programme was given the go-ahead by the Cabinet only after the expert committee gave a clean chit to the programme.

The district health administration officials said that 136 cases of filariasis have already been reported in the district. Only a blood smear done at night, when the parasite comes to the peripheral blood stream, can confirm the presence of microfilariae. The district health administration is running two night-time testing centres, at Fort hospital and at General hospital, where blood smear examination can be done between 8 p.m. and 10 .m. to detect carriers.

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