North Penajam Paser, East Kalimantan. Nearly an entire village in East Kalimantan is believed to be afflicted with the mosquito-borne disease filariasis, which can cause elephantiasis.
Sutrisno, head of community health at the district health office, said on Sunday that recent tests showed 210 of the 300 inhabitants of Sebakung Jaya village in North Penajam Paser district had the filari asis parasite.
The health office is now making plans to bring in the necessary drugs to treat everyone in the village, he said.
First, however, they are waiting for the test results to be confirmed by the provincial health office in the East Kalimantan capital of Samarinda.
“We need to be really sure that there are really 210 people suffering from filariasis, which is why we sent the test samples to Samarinda,” he said.
Sutrisno said health officials were also running an awareness campaign to educate residents about the disease.
“We have asked them to use mosquito nets when they sleep at night, so that we can at least keep the disease in check,” he said.
Filariasis is caused by the microscopic filaria worm, which can be transmitted to humans by mosquitoes.
If left untreated, the affliction can lead to blindness and elephantiasis, a condition characterized by the abnormal thickening of the skin.
Sutrisno said the early warning signs included a high fever for three to five days as well as swelling and pain in the lymph nodes of the groin and armpit.
“Usually the first sign of filariasis is the swelling of the lymph nodes, which can quickly lead to elephantiasis,” he said.
He added that the district health office would carry out routine monitoring of the residents of Sebakung Jaya village and surrounding areas to track the progress of the filariasis outbreak.
Health authorities expect the area to be free of the parasitic disease in five years’ time.
A mass drug administration initiative to prevent filariasis in Bandung in 2009 resulted in nine deaths believed to be linked to the free medication meant to fight the disease.