16 Aug 2017

Tonga remains vigilant despite elimination of elephantiasis

2:52 pm on 16 August 2017

The Chief Medical Officer for Public Health in Tonga has warned against complacency about lymphatic filariasis which has been finally eliminated from the kingdom.

The World Health Organisation announced last month had won its battle against the mosquito borne disease also known as elephantiasis.

It leads to severe disfigurement, pain and disability and had at times affected up to 50 percent of the Tongan population, according to the WHO.

Tonga's main hospital, Vaiola

Tonga's main hospital, Vaiola Photo: RNZI / Koro Vaka'uta

Reynold 'Ofanoa said Tonga's drug and assessment programme was worth it.

"That was a costly exercise because we needed to travel, either by air or by boat to the communities in order to conduct this work, but we are very fortunate that there were no adverse incidents during the process," Dr 'Ofanoa said.

"Even though it's a costly exercise, I believe the partnership that we had with our stakeholders, it was a strength that was able to mobilise resources to assist us during the process of implementing all the work that was required for this program to eliminate lymphatic filariasis."

Dr 'Ofanoa said even though Tonga had eliminated the disease, it didn't mean that they could relax and say things are fine.

"It's important for us to continue to be vigilant and also look at our control programs to make sure that it's in place and all the necessary measures that need to be implemented to maintain that elimination phase," he said.

Dr 'Ofanoa said the risk still existed, especially with travel to countries in the Pacific where lymphatic filariasis is still endemic.

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