Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis as a Public Health Problem in Thailand

Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis as a Public Health Problem in Thailand
WHO SEARO/PIA

Work on lymphatic filariasis in Thailand started in 1949 with the first survey to identify lyphoedema cases. Division of Lymphatic Filariasis was established in 1961 under the Department of Health starting the programme of treating the affected people. Thailand bore a high burden of LF and the disease was endemic in 11 provinces and the prevalence of microfilaraemia rate was as high as 41% in some areas.

In 1997, when the World Health Assembly Resolution called for the elimination of LF as a public health problem. Thailand has taken a remarkable step forward and with strong health stewardship from the leaders of the country ensured that resources were adequately provided and the goal of eliminating this debilitating public health problem was kept in focus.

The National Programme for Elimination on of Lymphatic Filariasis was launched in 2001, providing the final push against the disease. A dedicated health staff worked tirelessly over the years to ensure that surveys were well conducted and timely preventive chemotherapy was administered to vulnerable populations. The people of Thailand played their part, with those in the affected provinces taking annual doses of the medication on even though they showed no symptom of disease – an undoubted success in social mobilization. Regular and timely mass administration of preventive chemotherapy has adequately interrupted the transmission of endemic filariasis in Thailand.

By 2010 Thailand successfully completed provision of required rounds of mass treatment to populations in all filariasis endemic areas. Subsequently three rounds of survey were undertaken to confirm that the elimination threshold has been sustained.

In mid-2017, Thailand's dossier on the elimination of lymphatic filariasis was reviewed by an external validation panel convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) Office for the South-East Asia Region. Based on the evidence provided in the dossier and the recommendation of the external validation panel, WHO concluded that Thailand has achieved criteria for the elimination of lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem. People with by chronic filariasis would remain affected for life and measures and support systems are in place to provide treatment and care to these people.

In September 2017, the Regional Director of the WHO office for the South-East Asia Region, at the Seventieth Regional Committee session of WHO South-East Asia Region, in Maldives, presented an official certification to the Ministry of Health Thailand on this momentous achievement with Thailand becoming the third Member State of the WHO South-East Asia Region to eliminate lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem.

This plaque is presented to the Royal Thai Government by the Director General of WHO and the Regional Director for South-East Asia recognizing the leadership and the commitment of the government and the people of Thailand in achieving this significant public health milestone.

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