…as pill distribution campaign kicks off“I think we need to do more to make sure that we have this disease eliminated. Other countries have done it, so what makes us different? What makes us different is that we have oil, we have money. We should be able to do it.”This woman spared no effort to be one of the first to have her filaria prevention pillsThose were the words shared by the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) Representative to Guyana, Dr William Adu Krow, at launch of the Mass Drug Administration (MDA) campaign which kicked off on Friday at the Square of the Revolution in Georgetown.He shared that there are currently some 97 million cases of filaria around the world which have received treatment so far; and of those cases, approximately US$100 billion were used to avert the cases.The representative’s words were further endorsed by National Coordinator for Neglected Infectious Diseases, Fabu Moses-Stuart. According to her, “While there is ample evidence around us of success, even here in the Region of the Americas, Guyana still lags behind in the fight against lymphatic filariasis.“We are the only country in the Americas yet to scale up to 100 per cent geographical coverage (of pill distribution)”.Her statements were made in relation to the fact that Guyana currently only distributes filaria pills to five administrative regions, including Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara), Four (Demerara-Mahaica), Five (Mahaica-Berbice) and 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) as these happen to be the most affected Regions, as was found in a survey conducted by the Ministry a few years ago.The Coordinator nonetheless informed the gather that she believes the disease can be eliminated in the days ahead.During this year’s campaign, persons from the aforementioned regions will benefit from the two free pills, the albendazole and diethylcarbamazine citrate (DEC).The number of tablets will vary as per age, and the tablets are not to be given to pregnant women and children below two years old. It is said that a person requires five annual doses of the pills before they become immune to the mosquito-borne disease.Although these pills are being distributed in only four of Guyana’s administrative regions, Senior Health Officer Quincy Jones, who gave the feature address instead of subject Minsiter Volda Lawrence, assured that the Ministry has not forgotten about the other regions.“Whilst we enjoy the success of the past year and buckle down to the challenges of this year — to continually roll out the MDA programme within these four regions, which is currently (the) undertaking, I urge the members of the public and the media to know that the other regions…are not forgotten,” Jones pointed out.This year’s pill distribution campaign will, like others, cost just about US$1 million.Jones pointed out that although the programme is very costly, the benefits of safeguarding Guyanese outweigh those costs.Although distribution of the pills has already started in other regions, uniformed distributors will visit home, schools and work places from Monday in Region Four.Persons are being urged by the Ministry to take the pills, as they will prevent the spread of lymphatic filariasis, which has no signs during the first 10 years in the life of an infected person.The disease is transmitted by a mosquito, and causes a person’s lymphatic glands located in areas such as the legs, breasts and even penis to swell, a condition often referred to as “goadie” and “big foot”.It was disclosed during the launch that epidemiology coverage has improved from 45.7 per cent in 2015 to 54.42 in 2016, as only two Regions received the pills back in 2015, but in 2016 the Government was able to extend the pill distribution areas to four.This, however, was still no major achievement for the country, as the pass mark coverage percentage was 65 percent, according to PAHO/WHO. The country was finally able to improve the coverage last year, as it achieved 86 percent epidemiology coverage.